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the heat of the sun.

He then gives an illustration of the effect of contributing sewage
matter, even in very small quantities, indeed — containing the dejecta
of zymotic patients — upon the potable quality of water, and says:

The above is no fanciful picture. The experiment was tried on the inhabitants of a town in
Surrey, unwittingly, it is true, but on that account the result is the more reliable. An epidemic
broke out, and the consequent investigation revealed the cause in all its loathsome details. For-
tunately for mankind at large, the relation in this case between cause and effect was distinctly
traceable, but in the great majority of cases this is out of the question.

And finally, under this heading I find this unqualified conclusion:

There is not the least evidence to show that foul water is rendered wholesome by flowing fifty
or one hundred miles; indeed, all experiments point in the opposite direction, on account of the
persistent vitality of the organisms which accompanj' zymotic disease, and of the utter failure
of dilution to disarm these potent germs of corruption and death.

Mr. Folkard is of opinion that the sources of the pollution of river
waters, besides town sewage, in England, are so numerous and varied
in character that they cannot be cut off, and, consequently, that the
endeavor to purify such river waters so as to be fit for drinking pur-
poses, by the exclusion of sewage from them, is futile; that the rivers
ought to be abandoned as sources of water supply, and water stored


or drawn from artesian wells be used altogether for drinking pur-

Engineers Generally.

Engineers and sanitarians generally in England differ from him
in this opinion, and show pretty conclusively that he is wrong on
this point; but however this may be, any application of his theory to
the conclusion that things should be let to drift as they are, because
they cannot be wholly remedied, is a weak point in argument, even
for the case as it stands in England, and no point at all in any argu-
ment which might come up on this matter in California. For our
streams are not yet polluted to any considerable extent in the way
we are now considering; and in the great central valley of the State,
at least, the topography is such as to shield them from natural pollu-
tion to a very considerable extent. Our question here will be, shall
the streams be preserved from pollution, so that the argument of
bad-anyhow-might-as- well-be- worse can never be used in opposition
to proper sanitary measures.

Furthermore, this argument in favor of letting things drift as cus-
tom tends is answered by invoking the doctrine of chances, brought
forward by Mr. Folkard himself for the purpose of parts of his argu-
ment. The chances of bad results are greater in proportion to the
certainty of pollution. That is to say, waters directly polluted from
the zymotic patient, by leading sewage into them, are much more
certain to prove poisonous to persons drinking them than waters
which may have been polluted with the same class of noxious matter
carried into them by the washings from streets, alleys, cow yards,
manured fields, etc.

In the discussion before the Institution of Civil Engineers which
followed the reading of Mr. Folkard's paper, there were eminent men
of learning and observation who differed with him upon some of his
leading conclusions, as well as others who coincided with him in his

Baldwin Latham.

For instance: Mr. Baldwin Latham, a civil engineer of wide expe-
rience and special practice in sanitary works, maintained that there
was evidence to show that river waters receiving sewage purified
themselves of their organic disease germs in running less than the 50
to 100 miles of which Mr. Folkard spoke, and he cited the case of
Birmingham, where there was no cholera in 1848-49, taking its waters
for domestic use from the River Tame 20 miles down stream from
where they were polluted by the sewage of Bilston, Wolverhampton,
and other places where the disease raged violently.

Disease Projmgalion.

If I mistake not, however, the force of argument from this instance
would be set aside by the recent, perhaps more recently adopted,
theory of the germ-in-air propagation of this particular disease, and
the conclusion that the action of the atmosphere being required to
develop its germs the disease may not be conveyed in water charged
with the dejecta of cholera patients.

However this may be though, and notwithstanding the fact that
there is some evidence that poison is not always conveyed by means
of waters polluted at localities where zymotic diseases prevail to quar-


ters where the waters are used for domestic purposes, and notwith-
standing the fact that there are still some men of attainment and
observation in sanitary matters who contend that the deposit of sew-
age in running streams is not very dangerous to health and comfort,
but that the waters purify themselves of the disease producing matters
which have been put into them, as they advance on their course, in
the literature of the subject, there are many more instances cited
which appear to prove that disease is conveyed to great distances in
running water; and, as I have said, the greater number of sanitari-
ans — including engineers, doctors of medicine, chemists, microscop-
ists, and biologists of eminence, and practical observers not of scientific
attainment — so far as I am able to judge by a somewhat extended
search and reading of the original authorities, now, either in moderate
or radically positive terms, condemn the practice of polluting the
waters of running streams even in a very slight degree by the intro-
duction of crude sewage or any other similar matter therein.

The fact that a general practice yet is to dispose of the sewage of
towns in this way is no argument in its favor or against the conclu-
sion that it is a vile and filthy practice, unworthy of the age, and
productive of a vast amount of misery and death to the people.

A very general practice, to this day, is to dispose of the noxious
offal of dwellings in unlined pits that are never cleaned out, situated
on the same village or town lot whence drinking waters are drawn
from shallow surface wells; yet no fact of sanitary science is more
conclusively proven than that the soil, for considerable distances
around such pits, is impregnated with the matter cast into them, and
that the waters, even those found below an apparently impervious
"hardpan" substratum, are polluted by contamination, and, being
used as potable waters, are frequently the cause of diseases of the
class ranked as zymotic, and which are so fatal.

These subjects are not thoroughly understood by sanitarians, in
their several specialties even. There are undoubtedly remarkable
exceptions to be noted, as I have before said, to the rule that impreg-
nated waters carry disease germs great distances, and do not purify
themselves; but in explanation of these apparent exceptions, it is to
be remembered: First, that they are in cases where cholera was not
produced by the cause spoken of, and now it transpires that cholera
is not conveyed in the water, but in the air, and: Second, that although
disease may be shown not to have followed the drinking of waters
polluted by its germs at a distance of twenty miles or more away in
certain instances, this may not be evidence that the germs have been
destroyed in the interim, but that the conditions necessary for their
development in the persons of the population where imbibed may
not have been present.

And, finally, we have in explanation of these exceptional cases,
the results of the most recent investigations, elsewhere given, which
show that local causes, not general, sometimes purify river waters, but
that these cases are rare.

The Difference of Opinion.

As accounting in a great degree for the difference of opinion on this
subject in the countries where it has been forced to the public atten-
tion, we are to remember that the move to stop the pollution of the
streams is a reform, a reform against an established abuse that has
gradually grown up, that there are vast moneyed interests arrayed


from selfish motives against the reform on the one side of the argu-
ment, while on the other side are those actuated purely by a love of
truth, science, and cleanliness, and an interest in the welfare of the
people at large.

If anything, England is a manufacturing country. Her vast wealth
is largely invested in manufacturing establishments or enterprises
connected therewith or dependent thereon. Manufactories of some
kinds produce vast quantities of sewage matter. Paper mills, cotton,
cloth, and woolen mills, bleaching establishments, dye works, chem-
ical works, gas works, and a number of others being about the most
prolific of such putrescible offal waters and wastes calculated to pol-
lute waters and poison river beds and banks.

The manufacturers are a most powerful class; they are organized
much as the hydraulic miners are in this State. Leading members
of Parliament in both houses are said to be manufacturing kings. If
this be so, and we can well believe a good deal of it, we have an ex-
planation of the fact that the reform movement has made but slow
progress in that country, and we have an explanation of the condi-
tion of things depicted in the following paragraph :

It would really seem that although the whole country is agreed that the death rate is sensibly
increased by neglecting the condition of our streams, no government is strong enough to revert
to the law of the Egyptians and say, "Thou shalt not defile our rivers." Loss of life would
appear to be preferred to loss of trade, and although the preference may be reconciled to indi-
vidual interest, it is entirely opposed to the national weal. (Bailey Denton, Lectures, etc., p. 47.)

And again (p. 181) :

Tlie influence of the opposition of manufacturers upon the past and present governments has
resulted in a temporary respite, and some ground has been lost by temporizing, which had been
previously gained by slow and steady steps ; but when saying this it is impossible to evade the
conclusion, that the perfect and permanent cleansing of sewage will be sooner or later insisted
upon by every voice in the country, and by no persons more decidedly than by the manufac-
turers themselves.

In closing this subject, notice of two leading opinions in our own
country will not be amiss, although they are not so late in date as
much which I have given above.

J. p. Kirkwood, C.E.

In 187o, the Legislature of the State of Massachusetts enacted a law
"fo provide for an investigation of the question of the use of running
streams as common sewers in its relation to the public health.''^

By this law, the State Board of Health was instructed to carry on
themselves, or through their agents, an investigation on the subject
of " the correct method of drainage and sewerage of the cities and
towns of the commonwealth, especially with regard to the pollution
of the rivers, estuaries, and ponds, by such drainage or sewerage."

On this general point condemnatory of the practice of depositing
sewage in the streams, Mr. James P. Kirkwood, C.E., said:

The maintenance of the purity of our running streams has been, in the United States, gen-
erally neglected. * ® * It was long thought that seWage was destroyed by running water,
but now it is believed by chemists to be all but indestructible there. ■•■ * *

The poisons may be so largely diluted as to be beyond the readings of analysis, and yet they
may be sufficient, when fairly presented and understood, to render the water, by reason of that
knowledge, not merelv repulsive or suspicious, but more or less dangerous for family use.
(Kept. IVIass. Bd. of H.", 1876, pp. 23-154.)


Mr. Kirkwood is a Civil Engineer of Brooklyn, N. Y., of high stand-
ing, and the Board, in their report, say of him: "Mr. Kirkwood has
brought to the work a rare experience and a thorough knowledge of
sanitary engineering. His conclusions and suggestions are fully con-
curred in by the Board." (Work cited, p. 9.)

In the report above cited is a paper by C. F. Folsom, M.D., Secretary
of the Board, who, in 1876, investigated the matter of sewage disposal
in Europe, and writes concerning that part of the subject, and therein
occurs the following:

Much indeed has been said as to the complete self-purification of rivers by a flow of a few
dozen miles. No such power exists. The solid parts are deposited, and what remains looks
clear and bright, especially when largely diluted. Chemical changes take place too — sometimes
decomposition, sometimes putrefaction, sometimes simple elective combinations. If sewage con-
tain the germs of disease, whatever they may be, no agency at present known, except a suffi-
ciently high temperature, will efficiently destroy them. Excessive dilution simply diminishes
the chances of danger from any particular tumblerful.

Without attempting to be at all thorough, for the subject grows upon
one's hands the further it is examined, I have endeavored to show in
this part of my report, by citing the opinions and conclusions of those
who have looked into the subject in a thorough manner:

That house and town sewage is a noxious matter capable of impart-
ing or causing the most deadly diseases when taken into the system
in very moderate quantities even;

That deposited in a river, estuary, or other body of water (except
the sea, perhaps), it is not deprived of its noxious qualities — it is not
destroyed, but diluted;

That streams so polluted do not "purify themselves," that the sew-
age is not " carried away " even, but that the solid matters of the sewage
settle to the bottom, and there poison the soil of the channel bed and
banks, and that much animal organic matter (supposed to be the germs
of disease, or associated with such germs, or capable of evolving them,
or of producing conditions under which disease is evolved, it matters
not which), is held in solution in the water and is only very sloivly
destroyed ;

And, hence, that any pollution of a stream by sewage matter is a
material pollution ;

That public opinion is being formed to these conclusions in older
countries, but that the question is lulled to rest there and hushed up,
and the reform in sewage disposal is only gradually progressing,
because of the great outlay in works of sewerage already constructed
having river outfalls, the consequent great expense to change the
systems, and the immense moneyed interests in other ways arrayed
from selfish motives against the reform;

And, finally, that any authority undertaking to dispose of sewage
by depositing it in a stream, even one whose waters are but occasion-
ally used and by a small number of people only, are assuming a
responsibility or committing an act for which they may, in the near
future, and certainly will, before many years go by, in some form, be
held accountable, at least, as having erred.

If I have failed in adducing evidence to substantiate these views,
it may be said that I have not done the subject justice in my selec-
tion and arrangement of it, for enough may be had to make this
report many times as long as it is, and from the best sources, and of
the most practical kind.



The sewage of which we speak, as I have before written, is polluted
water — the proportion of polluting matter being small as compared
to that of the water; and the object of all sewerage work should be
to dispose of the noxious matter so that at least it may do no harm,
if, indeed, it be not made useful, and to restore the water to a state
approximating purity.

Cultivated land is the natural, as it is the best, practicable medium
for the purification of the noxious matters which pollute the waters
of sewage.

Land of suitable soil, properly prepared, with the environments of
locality and climate favorable, affords, to judicious use, all of the
essential conditions under which the chemical changes necessary for
the purification of sewage waters take place, in the most presentable
form for the purpose, that we can hope to find in practice.

The Action of Soil and Air.

The immediate object to be held in view is to prevent decomposi-
tion or arrest fermentation of the organic matters contained in the
sewage, and thus forestall the development of organic germs, or the
conditions under which they may be developed, and the giving off
of foul odors.

Moisture to saturation being an essential condition to this process
of decomposition or fermentation, and subsequent development, the
removal of such excessive moisture deprives the matter of the envi-
ronment necessary to the baneful action.

And again, the action of the air upon the particles of matter is essen-
tial to the rapid change which it is desired to produce, and dispersion
or separation of these particles is essential to the free access of the

In applying sewage to land, then, under the conditions and in the
manner heretofore spoken of as most favorable to a successful issue,
the exact conditions are produced which best admit of those natural
actions which we want to help along; the putrescible particles are
arrested in their course or adhere to the granules of earth which
absorb the moisture from them, thus arresting decomposition, and
hold them subject to the action of the air, thus effecting their oxida-
tion; and, finally, vegetation afterwards assimilates the resultant
matters, and so the change becomes complete.

Conditions Essential to Success.

From these considerations we see at once that conditions essential
to the efficiency of this mode of disposing of sewage are a free, absorb-
ing, and well aerated soil, or, at least, in each case, an application of
sewage not in excess of the capacity of the soil, freely and promptly
to absorb or take into its pores the liquid and suspended solid matters,
without resulting in complete saturation and without leaving a con-
siderable scum or precipitate on the surface, at least a fair depth to the
soil, and such under-drainage, natural or artificial, as will promptly
lead away superfluous moisture and produce aeration of the soil; and,


finally, cultivation of the soil and plant growth thereon at least annu-
ally on at not distant intervals.

Some Authorities.

As I have before written, this question of sewage disposal has
attracted a great deal of attention in England, and has been the sub-
ject of a number of practical and scientific investigations and inquiries^
carried out under authority of law, or under the patronage or guidance
of societies of arts or science.

Without exception, so far as my examination goes, and I have
diligently traced the course of these inquiries in the original reports
or publications, wherever the question of the disposal of sewage has
been the one at issue, and it has been fairly met, the conclusion
arrived at by such inquiries has been either unqualifiedly in favor of
irrigation in all cases wliere jJossible, or in all cases where convenient.

I have been unable to find one authoritative verdict against it.
Differences of opinion are only in the degree of favor shown it, or as
to the necessity' of precipitating the solid matter before using the
liquid on the land, or as to the area of land necessary for a fixed
amount of sewage, and as to the economy of the plan of disposal — tak-
ing into account the high price of land and other complicating cir-

Land the Proper Purifier.

I present here a few of the many unqualified decisions upon which
the views I have advanced have been founded. Selecting only those
which come from some authoritative or specially high source, I
remark that individual opinions of civil engineers, sanitarians,
chemists of high standing, and town authorities, might be quoted by
the chapter, which coincide with them.

First come some authoritative opinions as to the efficiency of irri-
gation as a means of disposal of sew^age.

The Setoage of Towns Commission.

The Sewage of Towns Commissioners of England in their first
report (1858) showed that they considered that the irrigation of land
(in some cases supplemented by other processes) was the best means
of preventing the pollution of streams by sewage.

And in their third report (1865, p. 3,) they state in the most
emphatic terms that " the right way to dispose of town sewage is to
apply it continually to land, and it is only by such application that
the pollution of rivers can be avoided." {Corfield, "Treatment and
Utilization of Sewage," p. 231.)

The First Pivers Pollution Cominission.

The First Rivers Pollution Commissioners, in their third report,
submit the following as a conviction arrived at by them after their
extensive and thorough inquiry into the subject, that the right way
to dispose of town sewage is to apply it continually to land, and it is
only by such application that the pollution of rivers can be avoided.

The Local Governynent Board Sewage Committee.

The Committee of the Local Government Board on Sewage Dis-
posal, in their report of 1876, indorse the above conclusion of the
Rivers Pollution Commission in favor of irrigation, saying: "They


(the conclusions) have as much value now as at the time when made"
(p. 116). And as one of their own convictions they say, "that town
sewage can best and most cheaply be disposed of and purified by the
process of land irrigation for agricultural purposes, when local con-
ditions are favorable to its application" (p, 13 of report).

I^.i: Com. Society of Arts Conference, 1876.

The Executive Committee of the Society of Arts Conference, in
summing up the results which seemed to them to have been estab-
lished by that extended and interesting inquiry and discussion, give
precedence to irrigation as the best means of purifying sewage, in the
following words:

1. lu certain localities, where land at a reasonable price can be procured witli favorable
natural gradients, with soil of a suitable quality and in sufficient quantity, a sewage farm, if
properly conducted, is apparentlv the best method of disposing of water-carried sewage. (.Jour.
Soc. of Arts, Vol. XXIV, p. 737, June 16, 1876.)

In 1862 a committee was appointed by resolution of Parliament to
examine this matter, take testimony, and report. It was called the
" Select Committee on the Sewage of Towns." The conclusions arrived
at by this committee are so very instructive and pointed that I pre-
sent them entire:

1. The evidence proves that sewage contains the elements of every crop which is grown.

2. That as compared with solid manure there are advantages in the application of sewage
manure as to land.

3. The evidence which proves that town sewage contains a large amount of heat, which in
itself is beneficial in stimulating vegetation.

4. The evidence further proves that one ton (224 gallons) of average town sewage contains an
amount of manure which, if extracted and dried, would be worth a little over 2d., taking Peru-
vian guano (at lis. per ton as the standard).

6. A judicious use of town sewage permanently improves land.

7. Sewage may be applied to common grass, Italian rj-e-grass, and also to roots and grain
crops with great advantage, dressings with sewage hastening vegetation.

8. Sewage-grown grass has a great efiect in increasing the quantity and richness of the milk
of cows, as well as improving the condition of the cattle, which prefer sewaged grass to all

9. The earth possesses the power of absorbing from sewage all the manure which it contains,
if the dressings in volume are proportioned to the depth and quality of the soil.

10. Those who use sewage should have full control over it, that they may apply it when and
in what quantities they may require it.

11. Heav}-^ dressings of sewage (8,000 to 9,000 tons per acre), are wasteful; less dressings (500
to 2,000 tons per acre), when more carefully applied, produce better results. The enormous
dressings recommended by some witnesses would be agriculturally useless, as the sewage would
flow over and off the surface unchanged.

12. When the sewage of our cities, towns, and villages is utilized to the best advantage over
suitable areas, little or no imported or manufactured manures would be required in such districts.

13. Sewage may be applied with advantage to every description of soil which is naturally or
artificially drained.

14. The most profitable returns, as in the case of all other manures, will be obtained when

Online LibraryCalifornia. LegislatureAppendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly of the ... session of the Legislature of the State of California (Volume 1885v.1) → online text (page 43 of 83)