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skill, judgment, faith, and care would be required in tlie conduct of
farming operations by the use of sewage; (6) that all sewage is not
alike, or that sewage from some towns — by reason principally of the
manufacturing refuse and waste waters largely forming it — is in its
crude state unfit for application to lands where cultivation is prac-
ticed, and sewage from other towns contains so much solid matter, or
solid matter of such a character that the pores of the soil to Avhich it
applies become clogged; (7) that comparatively few crops are suita-
ble for cultivation by irrigation in the climate of England, and not
all of these are suitable for growth upon lands constantly under irri-
gation with foul waters; (8) that a very considerable prejudice existed
amongst the laboring population to working on irrigated lands, and
a greater prejudice against working on lands irrigated with highly
polluted waters; (9) that a very great prejudice existed against con-
suming the products resulting from the use of polluted waters; and,
finally, (10) that municipal cprporations cannot act to the same
advantage in such matters as can private individuals — these facts, I
say, were overlooked.

Sewage not Especially Valuable in England.

Experience has shown that only under exceptionally favorable
circumstances — and these circumstances are many and not often
rightly combined — can anything more than the ordinary profit of
farming be secured from the use of sewage in irrigation in Great
Britain; and, hence, that the communities producing the sewage can-
not only not expect to derive a revenue from it, but, generally speak-
ing, must be at expense to assist in handling it, in order that the
farmer may be compensated for the inconvenience to which he is put,
or helped with the extra labor necessitated by its use; and, beyond
this, it is found advisable in some instances, where the available area
of land is restricted, or its soil not suitable, or the sewage is of a
specially noxious character, or for other reasons not necessary hereto
be mentioned, to deprive the sewage waters of nearly all the matter
carried in suspension by them before application is made to the land,
thus involving the cost of works for the treatment of the sewage and
the expense of their maintenance and operation, which, of course,
falls upon the community sewered.

I have said that authorities generally concur in the opinion that the best way to dispose of
sewage is to apply it to land — that irrigation joc?- sc presents the only satisfoctory solution of the
sewage disposal problem yet arrived at. and that in all cases where an outfall into a large tidal
estuary, or bay, or the sea, is not afforded, irrigation should undoubtedly be resorted to when
land, climate, and other circumstances are favorable. I say this, notwithstanding what is
written by Mr. George E. Waring in liis •• Sanitary Drainage of Houses and Towns," in the
first two pages of chapter ten, from which we might infer that authorities are not in any way
settled upon the efficiency of any method of sewage disposal.

In the first place, it is not clear that this author includes irrigation when he says that " none
of these schemes have so far achieved the success claimed for them, as to gain the confidence of
the engineering world at large," but that he refers exclusively to the various patented devices
for purifying sewage by chemical and mechanical means. In the next place. I read on and
find him speaking of irrigation and the " Coventry process " as " one or two flevices which seem
to afford relief in the case of small villages, and especially of large or small establishments."
And, lastly, I take his book at his own estimate, to be found in the preface, as follows: " The
following chapters are not offered as' of material value to such engineers and architects as have
given attention to the subject, as these would naturally resort tothe original authorities from
which they have been so largely drawn. They are addressed more especially to the average
citizen and householder, and are intended ratlier as an incentive to the securing of good work,
than as a guide to the manner of its performance."


The "Sludge " Complicaiion.

And at this stage of the experience another sore disappointment,
which has been general, made itself felt: It was represented, as an
inducement to the municipalities to clarify their sewage waters, that
the resulting solid manure would be of sufficient market value to
more than cover the expense of the process, together with interest on
the works. But this expectation also proved fallacious, as will be
explained more fully in the next chapter of this report; and so it has
transpired that irrigation is simply a method of purifying sewage
waters, efficient in itself under ordinary conditions; that sewerage is
a process of clearing filth from a town, and that " towns must pay to
be clean," and cannot make capital out of their offal, at least not in


In closing this part of my report, I call attention to the points
which I have endeavored to make apparent, viz.:

That irrigation is the proper mode of disposing of sewage waters.

That their proper use on properly prepared lands does not produce
an insanitary condition of the immediate neighborhood.

That by proper appliances and management, the neighborhood of
a sewage irrigated field need not be even moderately offensive, but
will be inoffensive.

That in climates suited for irrigation at all, sewage waters are val-
uable, and ought not to be thrown away.

That opinions in older countries are almost unanimous as to the
above mentioned points.

As I said, in closing the last part of this report, if my conclusions
are not established by evidence, it is only because I have refrained
from transcribing enough of the supply, or have not chosen well, or
have not arranged well the parts chosen.

The facts are well proven and generally admitted.



In the two preceding chapters I have briefly sketched, in outline,
the history of the sewage disposal problem in England and other older-
countries. We have seen the growing evil of rivers pollution, the
outcry against it, the declaration that it was all a myth — that the waters
purified themselves in running a short distance — the refutation of this
fallac}', the fearless assertion of the most eminent men of science from
disinterested motives, and in the face of the clamor of the great mon-
eyed classes of the country (the landlords or "rate payers," and the
manufacturers), that it was suicidal to put town sewage and manufac-
turing refuse into the streams of the country; and we have seen that
the outcome of authoritative inquiry into the best means of disposing
of sewage has repeatedly and uniformly been a conclusion declaring
that it should be applied to land.

In the course of this review, I have referred to the fact that many


differences on the part of authorities were in degree only of opposi-
tion to the pollution of rivers by the deposit of sewage in them, and
in degree of advocacy of the application of sewage to land, rather than
the disputing of the opposition to the one or the advocacy of the other
measure altogether, and I have spoken of means, which, it had been
asserted, reconciled the disputants. It remains now to consider these

The agitation against the practice of pollution of the rivers with
sewage and manufacturing offal, taken up, as it was, by some of the
most powerful associations and most accomplished individuals of
England, was a very serious matter to many large moneyed interests
in the country. The questions were carried into the Courts, and in
most cases decided in favor of the plaintiffs, and injunctions were
issued restraining the town, or manufactory, as the case might be,
from dumping its sewage into the stream.


A way out of the difficulty was eagerly sought. In many cases it
was impossible to get sufficient suitable land properly located for

Cheltenham, Gloucester, in 1870, paid about $400 per acre for 131
acres of land, quite unsuitable in soil, upon which to run its sewage,
and this was not more than one fourth as much land as was needed.

Bedford, Bedfordshire, pays $25 per year per acre for the use of land
upon which to put sewage.

Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, paid about $340 per acre for ninety-
seven acres for its sewage farm, and has to pump the sewage up to it.

Banbury, Oxfordshire, acting under the impulse of an injunction
and order restraining the town from polluting the River Cherwell, in
1864, paid, about $1,275 per acre for 100 acres upon which to put its
sewage, and also has to pump the liquid on to the land.

Kendal, Westmoreland, in 1873, paid about $1,260 per acre for sixty-
five acres upon which to dispose of its sewage.

Chorley, Lancashire, under an order of the Court of Chancery, to
abstain from polluting the waters of the River Yarrow, in 1867, paid
at the rate of about $400 per acre for eighty-seven acres, and about
$540 per acre for forty-six acres, composing its sewage irrigation farm.

West Derby, Lancashire, in 1875, paid at the rate of about $730 per
acre for 207 acres upon which to dispose of its sewage. (Robinson &
Mellis, p. 89, et seq.)

And so this list might be run out to almost a hundred places which,
within the past fifteen or twenty years — most of them within the past
ten years — have been forced, by order of the Courts. or of the Con-
servancy Boards, or by public opinion, to purchase lands at figures
ranging from $300 to $1,500 per acre, upon which to utilize sewage in

At Croydon, six years after irrigation with sewage began, land in
the immediate vicinity of the farm where it was used had increased
from £250 to £1,000 per acre. This fact shows two things— the im-
mense price which has to be paid for land near the cities for irrigation,
and hence the great drawback to the general introduction of this
method of disposing of sewage; and the fact that the sewage farm
could not have been an objectionable neighbor, otherwise the land
would certainly not have increased so in value alongside of it. (Fol-
som, p. 341.)


It is no wonder, then, that there has been great opposition to the
adoption of irrigation, for in fact, in many instances as is alleged, it
is simply impossible to get land enough for the larger cities without
pumping the sewage a number of miles, necessitating great expense
for outfall and power works and annual charges for cost of operation.

Taking these facts into consideration, and the other circumstances
that contribute towards making a sewage irrigation farm a trouble-
some, and not profitable, property for a municipal corporation to
handle in England, it is no wonder that many devices and processes
have come to public notice, the owners or advocates of which claim-
ing for them the power to do away with all the embarrassments of
the problems of sewage disposal. In fact, such schemes may be num-
bered at least by hundreds.


Filtration was at first alleged to be the panacea for all evil caused
by sewage waters, and forthwith artificial filters of all conceivable
patterns and compositions were designed and experimented with.
There was "upward filtration," where the liquid was forced upward
through filters, leaving its heavier suspended matters below, to be
removed as "sludge;" and there was "lateral filtration," where the
filter was upright, as a partition or wall, and the liquid thus passed
through from one tank to another; and, again, "downward filtra-
tion," where the liquid passed downward by gravity through the filter
bed. And these filter beds were composed of every conceivable
material and combination of materials, ranging from gravel, coarse
and fine, through coarse and fine sand, earths of various kinds, bone
dust, wood charcoal, animal charcoal, thin boards with very small
perforations, and many others besides.

The first Rivers Pollution Commission tried some experiments
upon the filtration of sewage through various soils, and they reported,
in 1868, "that the process of filtration through gravel, sand, chalk, or
certain kinds of soil, if properly carried out, is the most effective
means of purifying sewage." (Rep. Riv. Pol. Com., 1868, p. 60.)

But this meant filtration through lands, and the fact is, as experi-
ence has proved, also, that filtration cannot be "properly carried out"
in an artificial filter, because it costs too much to make and maintain
one large enough, so that the filter must be a natural one — a piece of
land of such soil and subsoil composition as to be favorable, and
either naturally or artificially well underdrained; and the process
thus carried out is, of course, but one step — that of having a plant
growth on the land — removed from irrigation.

The advocates of artificial filter beds for the purification, or the
clarification even, of sewage, have long ago abandoned their ground,
and filtration now finds its place as a sort of concentration of irriga-

The intermittent downward filtration, heretofore spoken of, being the
application of sewage to deeply drained land, in the proportion of
ten to twelve times as great a quantity to the acre as in ordinary irri-
gation practice, at the sacrifice of crop growth and all but occasional
cultivation of the soil, is of this character, and it is advocated chiefly
as a substitute for irrigation when lands cannot be obtained in suffi-
cient quantity for the latter, and as a supplement to irrigation for the
purpose of disposing of the sewage when the crops do not need to be



The well known properties of alum, lime, and alumina, whereby
solid matters carried in suspension in water are made to settle to the
bottom when the fluid is in a moderate state of rest, were long ago
availed of to extract the noxious matters from sewage, and a number
of processes based upon the use of these precipitants, singly and in
combination, in various proportions with each other, and a host of
still other substances, have been devised, patented, and tried — the
most of them only to be discarded as worthless or too expensive in

Some, however, appear to have given a measure of satisfaction
under conditions where suitable land could not be obtained for irri-
gation, so that, without intending to specify any as very much better
than the others, it may be well to review those which I find most
prominently mentioned as having been submitted to practical trial,
although it is alleged by some authorities that these all have failed
or are too expensive in application for general use, where it is de-
sired to so far purify the sewage as to fit the effluent water for admis-
sion into any inland stream.

The Coventry Process, so called because of its adoption at the town of
Coventry, in Warwickshire, employs salts of alumina as the chief
precipitating agent.

At Coventry about 2,000,000 gallons per day of sewage, " extremely
foul, and colored by refuse dye, etc., thrown into the sewers from
numerous silk dyeing works, varnish works, etc.," are treated by this

Four tanks built into the ground are used, the sewage constantly
flowing through three of them, while the other is being cleaned. The
sewage is first screened, to take out large floating solid matter, then
treated to a dose of a solution of sulphate of alumina, prepared in
a cheap way by treating shale with sulphuric acid; then it receives
a charge of milk of lime, and, having dropped its solid matter in the
tanks, the clarified water escaping from the tanks over weirs "in a
fair state of purity," is then conveyed to filter beds, covering in all
nine acres of land, where it is filtered, the beds being used alter-
nately, and the water finally passes into the river Shurburne.

The Native (hiano, or A, B, C Process, consists mainly in the use of
alum, blood, and clay precipitants, the exact receipt embodying
also magnesia, chloride of sodium, animal and vegetable charcoal,
and some other ingredients, and the manner of application being in

It has been tried at eight or ten large towns and cities, with vary-
ing success so far as economy and efficiency are concerned.

The Phosjjhate Process consists in the use of phosphate of alumina
and lime as precipitants; the former being a good fertilizer, it
increases the value of the resulting "sludge" for manure and facili-
tates its sale.

The phosphate of alumina is mixed with sulphuric acid to make
it soluble, after which it is added to the sewage, together with a cer-
tain quantity of lime to aid the precipitation.

This process, also, has had its applications, and there are accounts
of its success.

Then there are a large number of processes which are not so promi-


nently mentioned, but which have had their applications, and still
have their advocates, as follows:

Bird's Process employs "sulphated clay," so called, being a iijixture
of sulphuric acid with common clay.

Siothert's Process employs lime, sulphate of alumina, sulphate of
zinc, and charcoal.

Hillc's Process employs lime, tar, salts of magnesium, and the prod-
ucts arising from the calcination of lime.

Collins' Process employs lime, carbon (a waste product of prussiate
of potash manufacture), house ashes, soda, and perchloride of iron.

Holden's Process employs sulphate of iron, lime, coal dust, and clay.

Fukla's Process employs, principally, lime and sulphate of soda.

Blythe's Process employs superphosphate of lime with magnesia and

Whiitread's Process employs a mixture of dicalcic and monocalcic
phosphates and a little milk of lime, the object being to recover in
the manure the whole of the phosphoric acid.

Campbell's Process employs phosphate of lime in a soluble state,
which is applied to the sewage, and then precipitated by a further
addition of lime.

Hanson's Process employs lime, black ash, and red haematite treated
with sulphuric acid.

GoodaU's Process employs lime, animal carbon, ashes, and an iron
liquor called sesqui-persulphate of iron.

The Lim.e Process is about the oldest method of artificially treating-
sewage waters. At first lime alone was used, but now some other
ingredients are sometimes added.

It has been tried in more places than any other process, and it may
be said of it that whereas it fails to purify the sewage, it is a good
clarifier and perhaps fits the waters to be purified by application to
land about as well as any of the more complicated manipulations,
but is complained of as not a good deodorizer during the operation,,
and as forming too much sludge of a low manurial value.

These are a few of a good many processes which may be found quite
fully described in the reports of the Rivers Pollution Commission, in
special papers brought before the Society of Arts, the Institution of
Civil Engineers, and the Association of Sanitary Engineers, and
briefly described or alluded to in the works of Corfield, Robinson,,
and Melliss, the report of Dr. Folsom, and elsewhere.

The record of their practical application at many different cities,,
towns, and burroughs, under varying circumstances, the discussions
of their merits which have occurred before the various societies men-
tioned, and the reports on their results made by various committees,
commissions, etc., are, to say the least, decidedly cotifusing.

Taking them all together, I find it generally held by the authori-
ties, and in fact most all who participate in the discussions, except
those interested in the patent rights to the processes, or who want to
adopt some such method of preparing sewage water for admission
into a stream, to save a greater outlay for some other works, so far as
I am able to judge, that they do clarify the liquid — precipitate the
solid matter held in suspension; that some are decidedly more eco-
nomical than others in the accomplishment of this result; that some,
a few, perhaps, accomplish more than a mere clarification, and remove
matters held in solution; that economy here also is variable; and
that none of them so far purify the water as should render it admis-


sible into a stream; but that it can readily be so purified by filtra-
tion through or use in irrigation on a small area 6f land after such


Certain it is that the artificial treatment of sewage by either filtra-
tion, or chemical or mechanical precipitation, fails to purify the water
and leaves it in a condition dangerous to be taken into the human
system, even in a most diluted form.

First Rivers Pollution Commission.

The First Rivers Pollution Commission reported: "As applied to
sewage, disinfectants do not disinfect and filter beds do not filter.*
Both attempts have been costly failures."

Sewage of Towns Commission.

The Sewage of Towns Commission reported that artificial filtra-
tion had been given up because " the filters choke immediately and
become impervious to the passage of the liquid."

Rivers Pollution Commission.

The Rivers Pollution Commission in 1858, and the Local Govern-
ment Board in 1876, speak favorably of the deodorizing and clarify
action of several precipitating processes, saying in substance that no
nuisance in the way of odor arises from their proper application, nor
does the effluent water offend the nostrils or eye, but they deny the
efficiency of any such process in the way of the purification of the

Executive Committee of the Society of Arts Conference.

The Executive Committee of the Society of Arts^ Conference on
Sewage, reported that by some of the precipitation processes, com-
bined with filtration, "a sufficiently purified effluent can be pro-
duced for discharge, without injurious results, into watercourses and
rivers, of sufficient magnitude for its considerable dilution; and that
for many towns, where land is not readily obtainable at a moderate
price, those particular processes afford the most suitable means of
disposing of water-carried sewage."

This is the most favorable opinion I have found of these chemical
processes, coming from a source other than individual, such as I have
hitherto mentioned; and even this opinion is not to be ranked with
those of the Government Commissioners appointed for that purpose,
one of which is as follows:

Second Rivers Pollution Commission.

The Rivers Pollution Commission, of which Dr. Frankland was at
the head as expert chemist, in their report of 1874 (the sixth), under
the head of " TJte possibility of rendering polluted water again whole-
some^' (p. 427), say:

Of all the processes which have been proposed for the purification of sewage, or of water
polluted by excrenientitious matters, there is not one which is sufficiently effective to warrant
the use, for dietetic purposes, of water which has been so contaminated.

*This applies to artificial filter beds and not to natural filtration through lands.


This opinion, of course, applies to artificial processes only. The
conclusion of this commission, with. respect to the efficiency of irriga-
tion as a process of purifying sewage, is elsewhere cited.

Dr. Fohom.

Dr. Folsom, who examined the subject personally for the Massa-
chusetts Board of Health in 1875, reported as follows:

In France and Germany the precipitating processes have been given up as inefficient. In
■ England a new successful patent process is hawked about every few months, to be soon found
only an addition to the list of failures; and the public is bewildered by the maze of conflicting
statements and propositions. In some cases, however, cities have been driven to the precipitat-
ing process because they could not get sufficient land to deal with their sewage in any other
way. (Work cited, p. .333.)

This opinion is worthy of all credence, considering the source it
comes from and the disinterested attitude occupied by the authority.

Bailey Dento7i.

In concluding this branch of the subject, I present extracts from
the lectures of Mr. Denton, to which I have before referred. They
are selected and arranged so as to give an idea in a small space of the
view this authority takes of the subject.

Until recently the laws of England required the liquid sewage of
towns to be conducted into rivers, etc. :

Under the altered state of the laws towns must abstain from so discharging until it has been
freed "from all foul and noxious matters" by the best practicable and reasonably available

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 45 of 83)