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to bring this process into more general application in connection with the purposes of water supply. The difficulty of obtaining absolutely pure water is practically exemplified by this process, for in attaining this result, unless the water is distilled some two or three times, and every time a large proportion of the residue is discarded, pure water cannot be obtained. In the case, however, of water distilled for dietetic purposes, it is not necessary to carry out the process to the extent required in procuring water for some chemical purposes. It has generally been considered that distilled water lacks aëration, and on this account it has been strongly recommended that it should be filtered. The great improvements in the process of distillation are due to Dr. Normandy, whose first patent, taken out in 1851, has been improved upon by many subsequent patents. The process has been adopted with the greatest possible advantage in many of our ocean steamers, and the preservation of the health of the crews and passengers visiting countries liable to the ravages of epidemic disease is, in a great measure, due to the use of this process. It is generally believed by many high sanitary authorities that if this system were adopted at malarious stations, one of the largest channels by which infection is disseminated would be effectually closed. Dr. Macnamara states that on our ocean steamers, “as a general rule, condensed seawater is employed for drinking purposes, which, although it may not be always very palatable, must obviously be free from all chance of choleraic contamination ;” and this is one of the great safeguards to Europe against the spread of cholera.
Softening by Exposure.—The exposure to the air of water containing salts which are held in solution by carbonic acid causes a loss of carbonic acid. Water of deep wells which has been in contact with chalk and other rocks often contains free carbonic acid by exposure, especially under the inequalities of diurnal temperature, the original charge of ground air is got rid of, and pure atmospheric air takes its place. On exposure to air, hard waters are especially liable to develop vegetable growth. A few days' exposure of very hard water in the summer time will soon develop green confervoid growth, and so soon as this growth takes place, carbonic acid is rapidly used up by it, so that the bicarbonates in the water are soon converted into simple carbonates, and are precipitated. Water, therefore, exposed to air undergoes a chemical metamorphosis; the bicarbonates of lime and magnesia are converted into carbonates, and are precipitated, and it is in this way that exposure assists in softening water.
Softening by Freezing.–Pliny, speaking of the quality of water and of the controversy going on in his time amongst physicians as to the use of water, says that some people preferred rain-water above all others, because it is the lightest. He also says that some prefer “snow-water before that which cometh down in showers ; and the water of ice dissolved before the other of melted snow," and he goes on to say that the rain, snow, and ice are all lighter than those which spring out of the earth, and ice amongst the rest far lighter than any water in proportion. Ice taken from hard or other impure waters, if found to be perfectly crystalline and free from air bubbles, will produce, on melting, a water as soft as that of distilled water. If, however, the ice contains air bubbles or cavities of any description, such water will not be entirely pure. Some years ago the author made an extensive series of experiments upon the degree of purity which might be arrived at by freezing water, when it was shown that the act of freezing may be carried to such an extent as to produce, in the remaining water, a precipitation of the salts in solution ; but ice frozen upon very superficial water was found liable to have the impurities frozen in it which adhered to the under sides of the ice, and which became embedded in it by subsequent freezing ; but water which has been largely deprived of air by boiling or exposure, upon being frozen, if perfectly crystalline, will produce absolutely pure water. Several patents have been taken out with a view to freezing sea-water so as to furnish a supply of fresh water
on board ship, but such processes will not compete, from an economical point of view, with the process of distillation.
Geological.—The geological formations which furnish water of a quality suitable to be softened are those of the dolomitic or magnesian limestone, which gives great hardness to water, for while salts of lime render water hard and troublesome, in washing, those of magnesia cause the water to curdle, and render it considerably more disagreeable for washing and ablution. The mountain limestone, which is ordinarily of an impermeable nature, does not yield water of such a hard quality as those of the magnesian limestone. The waters of the colite and chalk are chiefly hard from what has been termed temporary hardness, that is due to the presence of bicarbonates of lime and magnesia in the water, which may be got rid of by boiling, or by the lime process. The waters of the new red sandstone and Permean beds vary considerably in hardness; many of them have a considerable permanent degree of hardness, but there are none of them which may not be softened to a great extent by the adoption of the lime process, while this process, in combination with the other alkaline earths, such as soda, when the water is not intended to be used for dietetic and washing purposes, will still further reduce the hardness of these waters.
The surface wells of the country, usually sunk in drift covering various geological formations, furnish water of various degrees of hardness. Scarcely any such wells yield a soft water, and in most instances, when these wells are sunk in populous places, in addition to their natural hardness, the waters are highly polluted, and such waters ought never to be used for dietetic purposes, unless they are first boiled.
ON THE DETECTION OF SEWAGE
CONTAMINATION BY THE USE OF
By H. C. SORBY, LL.D., F.R.S.
By studying with the microscope the solid matters deposited from the water of a river, the previous contamination with sewage can usually be detected without any considerable difficulty. If the amount be serious, the characteristic particles of human excrement can easily be seen ; and even if it is small, and has been carried a long way by the current, it can usually be recognised by means of the hairs of oats derived mainly from the droppings of horses, which resist decomposition for a long time, and are not consumed as food by minute animals. I, however, do not propose to enter into detail in connection with this part of my subject, but specially desire to call attention to the connection between the number of minute animals and plants, and the character of the water in which they live, and also to their influence in removing organic impurities.
For some time past I have been carefully ascertaining the number per gallon of different samples of river and sea
of the various small animals which are large enough not to pass through a sieve, the meshes of which are about qboth part of an inch in diameter. The amount of water used varies from ten gallons downwards, according to the number present. By the arrangements used there is no important difficulty in carrying out the whole method in a satisfactory manner. I confine my remarks entirely to general mean results.
The chief animals met with in fresh water are various entomostraca, rotifera, and the worm-like larvæ of insects.
I find that the number per gallon and percentage relationships of these mark, in a most clear manner, changed conditions in the water, the discharge of a certain amount of sewage being indicated by an increase in the total number per gallon, or by an alteration in the relative numbers of the different kinds, or by both. All my remarks apply to the warm part of the year, and not to winter.
It is known that entomostraca will eat dead animal matter, though probably not entirely dependent on it. I have myself proved that they may be kept alive for many months by feeding them on human excrement, though they soon died without it. If the amount of food in any water is small, not many of such animals can obtain sufficient; but if it be abundant, they may multiply rapidly, since it is asserted that in one season a single female cyclops may give rise to no less than four thousand millions of young. In stagnant muddy ponds, wrere food abounds, I have found an average of 200 per gallon. In the case of fairly pure rivers the total number of freeswimming animals is not more than one per gallon. I, however, found that where what may be called sewage was discharged into such water the number per gallon rose to 27, and the percentage relationships between the different groups of entomostraca were greatly changed. In the Thames at Crossness, at low water, the number was about six per gallon, which fell to three or four at Erith, and was reduced to less than one at Greenhithe.
There is, however, a very decided limit to the increase of entomostraca when the water of a river is rendered very impure by the discharge of too much sewage, probably because oxygen is deficient, and free sulphide of hydrogen present. Such water is often characterised by the great number of worm-like larvæ of insects. Thus, in the Don, below Sheffield, in summer, I found the number per gallon, of entomostraca, only about one-third of what it is in pure waters; whilst, on the contrary, the number of worm-like larvæ was more than one per gallon. VOL, VIII.-H. C.