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sewage is judiciously applied to the best class of soils.

15. Sewage may be advantageously applied to land throughout t*e entire year.

16. Some matters used in manufactures which enter town sewers, such as waste acids, would
1)6 in themselves injurious if applied to vegetation; but bearing as they do so small a propor-
tion to the entire volume of sewage into which they are turned, they are rendered harmless.

17. Fresh sewage at tlie outfall of the sewers, even in the hottest weather, is very slightlv
offensive; and if applied to the land in this state in such dressings as can at once be' absorbed
by the earth, fear of nuisance need not be felt, as the soil possesses the power to deodorize and
separate from liquids all the manure which they contain.

18. Large dressings and an overtaxed soil may pollute surface streams, subsoils, and shallow

19. Solid manure cannot be manufactured from town sewage with commercially profitable


The Massachusetts State Board of Health.

The Massachusetts State Board of Health, at the close of a most
extended report on the whole sewage question, covering upwards of
four hundred pages, made after careful research by men of ability —
one of whom. Dr. C. F. Folsom, made an extended trip to Europe for
the purpose of studying the question — advance as a primary recom-
mendation, the following:

I. That no city or town shall be allowed to discharge sewage into any watercourse or pond,
without first purifying it according to the best process at present known, and which consists in
irrigation, etc. * * ®

VI. That irrigation be adopted, at first experimentally, in those places where some process
of purification of sewage is necessary; and that cities and towns be authorized by law to take
such land as may be necessary for the purpose.

And they say, before advancing this recommendation, that:

In public institutions, prisons, asylums, etc., it is our opinion that the sewage can be utilized
and purified by irrigation to great advantage, and this disposal of it should be made when the
land can be got.

The First Rivers Pollution Commission, in their report, 1867, said:

Sewage interception is always practical. Where it can be applied fresh to land there is least
nuisance, and least cost to the rate payers. ® -■■ •■■■ No arrangements for treating sewage are
satisfactory, except its direct application to land for agricultural j^urposes.

Speaking of this opinion, Dr. Folsom writes:

This statement may fairly be taken as the result of twenty-five years' experience in England
(that is, previous to 1867) ; and the " official opinion," if the term may be used, has not changed
since that time. (Down to 1876.) * * ■•■" No authoritative body, so far as I have been able
to learn, has declared itself as fully satisfied with any other process for the purification of
sewage than that of irrigation. (Rept. Mass. State Bd. of H., 1876, p. 299.)

Sanitary Influence of a Sewage Farm.

Lands irrigated with sewage are not productive of sickness to the
residents upon them or in their neighborhood, as is attested by the
following evidence, culled from a great mass to the same effect, scat-
tered through many official documents, and, so far as I have been
able to find, there is no authoritative evidence to the contrary.

The First Rivers Pollution Commission.

The Rivers Pollution Commissioners, in their first report, say:

We do not recommend irrigation for the abatement of the town sewage nuisance without
having made ample inquiry into any risk to health which may be incurred by the establish-
ment of sewage meadows in the neighborhood of towns. Such inquiries have been made at
Edinburgh, Croydon, Norwood, and Barking, where irrigation has been carried on long enough,
and near Edinburgh, at least, in a sufficiently careless manner to have certainly developed
whatever elements of mischief may be inherent in the practice. Nowhere have we found
instances of ill health that are properly attributable to malaria or other causes due to irrigation.'

Dr. Littlejohn, Medical Officer of Health to Edinburgh, in evidence
before the Commission, said he entertained a prejudice against the
maintenance of sewage meadows so near the city, but that he had not
been able to connect any ill health of the city with the meadows as
its cause.

Professor Christison, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,
speaking of these meadows, in an address at the meeting of the Asso-


ciation for the Encouragement of Social Science at Edinburgh, in
October, 1863, said :

Many years ago, my own prejudices were all against the meadows; I have been compelled to
surrender them. I am satisfied that neither typhus, nor enteric fever, nor dysentery, nor
cholera, is to be encountered in or around them, whether in epidemic or non-epidemic seasons,
more than any other agricultural district of the neighborhood.

He then gives certain facts ascertained by his investigation of the
subject, upon which he has based his conclusion, and says: " I think
it right, in reference to the late introduction of the Craigentinny sys-
tem of irrigation into the vicinity of other large towns, that these
precise facts should be known."

In 1870, this Dr. Christison w^rites: "I have nothing either to add
to or subtract from the above quotation from my 'social science'
address in 1863."

Then follows a mass of other evidence of like import from men
competent to observe closely and draw valuable conclusions, that was
collected by the Commission, from which we are bound to conclude
that they could have come to no other conclusion.

The Second Rivers Pollution Commission.

The fourth report of the Rivers Pollution Commission made, be it
remembered, by entirely different individuals, as heretofore explained,
contains further evidence and expression of opinion to the same

Dr. Littlejohn again gives testimony with respect to the healthful-
ness of the neighborhood of the Craigentinny Meadows, and after
speaking of the general good health of the people of Restelrig, which
is surrounded by these meadows, he says:

I expected that the first part of Edinburgh (Regent Terrace and Carleton Terrace, on the
Calton Hill), against which the wind blowing over these meadows impinges, would have
exhibited evidence of infection in the shape of cholera or typhoid fever, but I have totally
failed to find it so.

Speaking of the health of the soldiers at the neighboring barracks,
he says: "No injurious effect is produced by the meadows which is
perceptible in the state of their health."

The Commission say that there is no evidence of the meadows pro-
ducing ill health, and much to the effect that they do not have any
such influence.

It is to be remarked that these meadows are frequently spoken of
in the literature of sewage irrigation as an example of verj' careless
management, and bad arrangement, and that the air in their neigh-
borhood is oftentimes A^ery offensive to the olfactory organs.

The Commission made particular inquiry as to the health of cows
fed upon sewage produced grass from these meadows as well as others,
and in this fourth report I find amongst other evidence on this point,
the following from Dr. Littlejohn, the medical officer of health. He

The cows in Edinburgh are chiefly fed with grass that is grown on the Craigentinny Meadows.
I have thought that there might be objection to feeding cows upon grass so grown, because I
was of opinion that such grass might be of inferior quality ; but practically I have failed to
detect any bad effects resulting from the use of such grass.


He then goes on to specify at length the character of diseases he
would have looked for, and speaks of their remarkable absence, as
shown by inspection and dissection of the animals, closing with the

The practice of keeping cows in Edinburgh has prevailed from time immemorial. If there
had been anything in the idea that sewage grass would lead indirectly to entozoic disease, it has
had ]ilent)' of time to develop itself, and Edinburgh is not only the seat of a great medical
school, but medical observation is carried to the highest point in Edinburgh, so that it could not
fail of being detected.

Committee of the Royal Agricultural Society.

In 1879, two prizes, each of the value of one hundred pounds (ster-
ling), were offered for the best managed sewage farms in England and
Wales, by the Mansion House Committee, in connection with the
London International Exhibition of the Society, and these prizes
were accepted by the Council.

A committee, consisting of Mr. Baldwin Latham, civil engineer,
Clare S. Read, and Thomas H. Thursfield, was appointed to examine
the farms entered for the prizes, and their management, and report

The report of this committee is one of great interest and value,
covering eighty pages octavo, closely printed matter. I take one
extract for presentation here, hoping to embody in an appendix, at a
future day, a summary of the practical information contained in this
and other similar papers.

Li concluding the committee say:

With respect to the sanitary aspect of sewage farming, the above table will show the several
particulars which have been collected in reference to the farms during the period they have
been in operation, the number of persons either living or working on the farms, the number of
children residing on the farms, and the number of deaths which have occurred.

An e.x;amiuation of this table will show that the rate of mortality on an average of the num-
ber of years which these farms have been in operation, does not exceed three per thousand per
annum. This is a very low rate, but in all probability it may not be lower than would be found
in an equal number of selected lives taken from an agricultural district. The results of the
sanitary inquiry show that sewage farming is not detrimental to life or health. "■■■" ® *

Sewage farming is becoming an important agricultural feature in the country, there being at
the present time about one hundred such farms in operation. (Jour. Royal Agricultural Soc,
Vol. XVI, 2d series, pp. 1-80.)

This last testimony and opinion is important as being of recent
date, and the result of a systematic inquiry into the subject, from the
agricultural standpoint.

I refrain from presenting more evidence on this point, because,
with what is to be said hereafter about proper drainage, this ought
to be enough.


Mr. Bailey Denton.

Mr. Bailey Denton, one of the oldest and first sanitary engineers
in Great Britian, in closing a series of lectures (the printed reports of
which cover 360 large octavo pages) delivered at the Royal School of
Military Engineering, at Chatham, in 1876, on the subject of sanitary
engineering generally, draws the first of twelve main conclusions in
the following language :

I. That the liquid refuse of towns, villages, hamlets, institutions, and dwellings, can only
be continuously, eflectually, and economically cleansed and rendered legally admissible into
inland rivers by application to land. (Work cited, p. .351.)


Then follows nine conclusions relating to the subject as presented
in England — by the complications of high prices of lands, numerous
manufactories, sewerage works already constructed, rivers already
polluted — which have no bearing to our present case here, and then
w'e come to the eleventh conclusion, which is as follows:

XL Land receiving sewage should be most carefully prepared to distribute it while in a fresh
condition. All half and half measures result sooner or later in river pollution, and loss to the

And in speaking of land which is suitable for the reception of sew-
age, he says: "Always assuming that it is naturally or artificially
well underdrained."

Mr. C. N. Bazalgette.

In closing one of the most notable papers upon this Sewage Question
which has appeared of late years, and wdiich was read before the Insti-
tution of Civil Engineers, London, in 1877, the author, Mr. Charles
Normann Bazalgette, laid down as a primary conclusion for the dis-
cussion of the society, the following: " That where land can be reason-
ably acquired, irrigation is the best and most satisfactorily known
system for the disposal of sewage."

And in the course of his paper he says :

In broad irrigation it is not merely the surface contact of the sewage with the soil assisted by
the oxidizing influence of vegetation, which conduces to the resolution of sewage into its innoc-
uous elements, but above all its passage through that aerated earth filter which intervenes
between the surface and the subsoil (water) drainage. (Minutes of the, Proceedings of the
Institution of Civil Engineers, Vol. XLIII, pp. 105-160.)

Mr. W. Crookes.

In discussing Mr. Bazalgette's paper, Mr. W. Crookes, one of his
principal opponents, " who, for some years, had made this subject his
special study," and wdio did not agree with Mr. B. in others of his
conclusions, nor fully even in this one, said :

As a process which numbers many and most zealous — not to say occasionally intolerant —
advocates, I first refer to irrigation. Xo one can dispute that earth has a wonderfully deodoriz-
ing power, which increases the more finel}' the soil is pulverized and subdivided, and the more
thoroughly it gives passage to the air. The fcecal matters and other impurities attach themselves
to the surfaces of the particles of earth by a kind of cohesive attraction, and in this state are
readily attacked by the oxygen of the air. Their organic carbon becomes carbonic acid; their
nitrogen is converted into nitrous or nitric acid, which unites with lime, magnesia, and other
basic elements present.

He then goes on to speak of the unsuitableness of some kinds of
land, and the difficulty of securing land for this purpose in many
parts of England, together with the limited variety of crops to which
sewage waters can be advantageously applied, and concludes, while
admitting the efficiency and value of irrigation as a process for the
purification of sewage under favorable circumstances, that, owing to
the absence of these circumstances in most cases, the method cannot
be looked to as one solving the sewage problem for England.

The original paper covers fifty-five closely printed octavo pages,
and considers the question from every standpoint, as a review of the
experience had and published up to that date. The discussion which
followed was participated in by a number of engineers and scientists
of good standing, the report of which covers ninety similar pages, and


the correspondence on the subject, appearing in the following volume,
covers forty-five additional pages.

The opinions quoted above fairly represent those of the participants
in this discussion, so far as expressed on this head of irrigation, the
one being outspoken in favor of irrigation as a means of disposal,
and as probably the chief means to be looked to in the country, the
other scarcely less favorable to irrigation in itself, but asserting it to
be impracticable in a great majority of cases in England, because of
peculiar local circumstances.

Prof. W. H. Corfidd.

The most complete authority on the subject of sewage purification,
up to the time of its publication (1871), is the work of Prof. Corfield.
After an exhaustive review of the subject, in which he collates a vast
amount of evidence from practical experience, a reading of which is
most impressive, he advances his chief conclusion in the following

(rt) That by careful and well conducted sewa_s;e irrigation, especially with the application of
moderate quantities per acre, the purification of the whole liquid refuse of a town is practically
perfect, and has been insured in cases where it was not at all the object of the agriculturist; and
that it is the only process known by which that purification can be effected on a large or on a
small scale (p. 270).

And at the end of a chapter on the " Influence of Sewage Farming
on the Public Health," after adducing very interesting and pointed
evidence to the effect that the health of people living on and near
sewage farms, so far from being bad or worse than that of people in
general living on agricultural lands, is in notable cases better, the
author says:

We have good reason to expect that it will be found to be the case, that the utilization of the
sewage of towns on the land near them, while preventing the pollution of drinking water, and
the spread thereby of cholera and typhoid fever, will at the same time maintain the purity of
the atmosphere around and about the town, and the result will be, especially when combined
with that produced by the increased demand for labor and the more plentiful supply of food, a
diminution of the general death rate (p. 283).


Where the use of sewage waters in irrigation has failed to prove an
efficient means of disposing of them, or of so far purifying them as to
render them as fit to be put into rivers as the drainage waters from
any highly cultivated, stocked, or manured farm lands, it is asserted
upon the highest authority, and generally acceded to, that such result
is due to one or more of five causes:

The quality of sewage applied has been too great for the land irri-
gated under the immediate and surrounding circumstances;

The soil of the land has been radically unsuited for the purpose, or
it has not been properly prepared for such use;

The manner of application has been careless, or from other cause
needlessly inefficient;

The land has been kept continuously in use for sewage purifica-
tion, Avithout cultivation and growth of crops, for too long a period
of time ; or,

Sewage irrigation has been practiced on quite a large scale in England since about 1853, when
the Rugby sewage farm was established. There are now upwards of one hundred localities
where towns and cities thus dispose of their drainage, and the number is increasing rapidly.


The sewage itself has been exceptionally foul and full of putresci-
ble matter, and has not been treated or defecated before application
to the land.

These Causes Might Operate Anywhete.

The above causes of failure are such as, without proper knowledge
and care, are liable to recur at any point where irrigation is resorted
to as a means of disposal and purification of sewage, and of course are
to be guarded against in the selection and preparation of lands and
the subsequent use thereof for the purpose.

I have already cited some authorities which bear on this point and
will only call attention to one other: Mr. Baldwin Latham, an Eng-
lish civil engineer who has had much experience in sanitary work
and written a work of merit on the subject, at a meeting of the Asso-
ciation of Sanitary Engineers held at Merton in 1879, speaking of the
sewage disposal works at Croyden, where the sewage from a town of
17,000 people is put on to 28 acres of land for filtration, after the solid
matter in suspension has been precipitated from it in tanks, said :

In fact, if the sewage was not seen nobody would find fault with it. The only objection he
had found in treating sewage was entirely one of sentiment. When jieople saw sewage, or
knew it was near them, they thouglit that there must be an offensive smell. He had never
found any great nuisance arising from a sewage farm if it was only moderately well conducted.
(Proceedings of the Association of Sanitary Engineers, Vol. VI, p.'l04.)

We should remember that it is -the solid matter in suspension and
in solution which, being allowed to stand long enough, decomposes
and becomes offensive; that earth is the best known agent to check
this decomposition; that the water is the carrier, simply, of the other
substances composing the sewage; that if the soil is supplied with
this matter in proper quantity, and is properly under drained, so that
it does not at any time become water-logged, the result is simply an
application of the particles liable to decomposition, to their natural
deodorizer and disinfector — earth particles — there to be held, deodor-
ized and disinfected for the action of the air in the soil to complete
the work by oxidation.

other Causes Peculiar to the Old Country.

In England and other parts of Europe the popular expectations
from irrigation as a sewage treatment, has been disappointed in a
number of cases, from causes of another nature. These causes being
peculiar to the manner in which the subject was presented there, or
to the social or political condition of the country, are not likely to
recur here, and certainly will not if the subject is properly taken in
hand when it should be, and not put off until we have a dense popu-

England is a densely populated country; and land in the neigh-
borhood of cities and towns has its prefixed uses or actual or pros-
pective value, far in excess of that which obtains here.

_ So that it is difficult — sometimes almost impossible — to get suffi-
cient land of suitable quality and favorably situated, to admit of the
adoption of irrigation as a means of disposal of the sewage of many
towns and cities in that country.

Intermittent Downward Filtration.

To avoid this embarrassment the process known as int^mittent
downivard filtration, whereby lands were deeply underdrained and


used more as filter beds than as cultivated tracts, with the view of
disposing of a greater quantity of sewage upon the acre of land, was
resorted to. It is alleged b}^ one school of sanitarians that by this
process the sewage of 1,500 people can be effectively disposed of,Vith-
out nuisance, upon an acre of land, and it is claimed that in several
places in England the practice runs as high as 1,000 persons per acre.
Be this as it may, the principle is essentially the same as that of irri-
gation, with the absence, to a great extent, of the action of plant
growth on the land, and I have found no evidence amongst the vast
mass, pro and con, on the relative merits of broad (ordinary) irriga-
tion and intermiftent downward filtration, which inclines my judgment
in favor of the latter under circumstances where land is to be had in

We must remember, then, that what is said against irrigation as a
means of disposing of sewage in England is very largely on account
of the difficulty of getting enough land for the purpose adjacent to
the cities.

Climate of England Not Favorable.

Beyond this, the climate is not such as to make artificial irrigation,
with any water, on a broad scale for agricultural purposes, either
necessary or very desirable, except for the special purpose of forcing
grass on meadoAvs, and for this use sewage waters are not altogether
well adapted; and, furthermore, English farmers are not an irrigat-
ing people, and would not generally contemplate irrigation except
for the necessity of disposing of sewage waters.

It will be seen at once that irrigation was undertaken there by
reason of a motive engendered, as it were, outside of the necessities
of agriculture— the irrigation was not demanded by the agricultural
classes, but owing to the necessity under which the people living in
towns rested, to dispose of their polluted waters, some agriculturists,
from time to time, have been induced to undertake irrigation with
sewage waters.

The Reform Movement.

Like ail reforms, much more was claimed for this than it justly

It was claimed that sewage contained vast amounts of fertilizing
matters, which being applied to lands would greatly increase their
productive powers; that farming with sewage would be exceedingly
remunerative; that the farmer should pay for the privilege of using
the sewage; and, hence, it would be a source of revenue to the com-
munity producing as well as to the farmer using it.

Facts thai were Overlooked.

The facts (1) that there would be exceptional incoiiveniences and
expenses attending its use; (2) that the fertilizing elements, although
present in the sewage, were not and could not, without the lapse of
time and under favorable conditions, be in a proper condition for
assimilation as plant food; (3) that more land would be required for
the application of the sewage as years rolled on, or, in other words,
that lands should rest and be cultivated without the application of
sewage for a season or two now and then ; (4) that all soils were not
equally jfavorable for sewage reception, and some decidedly unfavor-


able, requiring considerable and skillful preparation to make them
at all suited for such use; (5) that more than an ordinary degree of

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