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DRAINS, SEWERS, ETC.—Only less prolific sources of complaint to guardians of public health than privies, because more hidden and obscure than they, sewers and drains are the fruitful cause of a vast total of discase and death in every community. Most subtle while most potent in the virulence they exhale, their dangers have been less regarded than those more patent, and wherever the investigations of sanitary science have gone, there the lesson of their power for evil has been taught. Advanced knowledge of their contaminating influences creates only a doubt whether to place foremost for destructive power, the possibilities that inhere to their intended flow, or those that attach to the fatal gases that escape therefrom to disseminate their poison through our dwellings.

To reach, as is desired, the effects of drains and sewers, such regulations as the following are not sufficient :

“No sewer-drain not water-tight, shall pass within two rods of any well or other source of water used for culinary purposes.

“No sewer-drain shall empty into any lake, pond, or other source of water used for culinary purposes, within the limits of this town."


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By the term sewer-drain, it was intended to indicate any drain conveying excrementitious or other radically foul, noxious or impure matter; but not a sink-drain or a cellardrain as ordinarily used. This distinction in favor of sink and cellar drains grew out of the conviction that while a condition unfavorable to health might possibly, and not improbably, result from the addition of their discharges to the waters of a well, typhoid fever or other grave disturbance would not, that typhoid could not occur ; and that the cases would probably be few where a sink-drain would be suffered, open as they generally are to observation, to run in dangerous proximity to a well. Never was couviction more erroneous, never confidence more ill-placed or beliefs uusound, never refutation more complete and convincing.

The convictions above expressed being held, only a recommendatory clause was added to the foregoing regulations in reference to the drains of sinks and cellars, by which it was advised that soil about the vents of such should be frequently renewed, and in the vigorous inspections of town territory, beyond the removal of sink-drains, when opening upon the public streets, no attention was paid to this class of nuisances.

Early in the summer of 1872, the physicians of W— had their attention attracted to a sudden and considerable increase of the number of cases of typhoid fever under their observation, and inquiry revealed the fact that while the patients were of varied employments,—as carpenter, mason, teamster, laborer, etc.,—and all resided in different places, they had all occasion, while employed in a certain locality, to drink from one pump, which, standing out of doors near an Irish dwelling, was convenient for use. An investigation showed that an originally insufficient sink-drain ran from this dwelling within some seventeen inches of the well, to a bank some twenty feet beyond and below, and that this had broken directly opposite to, practically in contact with, the walls of the well. A careful and thorough inquiry into the uses of the sink brought out no admissions that it had been employed for other than its proper service. Indeed, the statements which were made and believed were to the effect that no excreta, fluid or solid, had ever passed through it; that there had been no known case of typhoid fever in the house ; that no slops had been emptied in the vicinity, and that the premises were newly occupied. In all, there occurred nineteen cases of more or less well defined typhoid fever in persons who had drank from this well, and knew no other cause of illuess than this, and the number and circumstances were such as to forbid the thought of mere coincidence. There were no deaths resultant, but severe mania (in two cases long continued) was generally manifest, the abdominal symptoms presenting about the usual proportions of gravity and mildness. A striking and amusing feature of the investigation, was the indignant and confident rejoinder of the owner of the property on being reproached for the carelessness that could locate so insufficient a drain in such proximity to a well, in the words, " Why, doctor, that drain don't go within two feet of that well !”

Since that experience, no doubt has been entertained of the necessity for regulations as stringent for sink and cellar as for sewer drains, and the belief that personal interest would secure the proper location of drains in reference to wells, was abandoned when, later in the season, some thirteen drains of one kind or another, but none of them water-tight, were removed from almost equally dangerous relationship to several sources of family water-supply. Indeed, it is doubted if it is possible to frame regulations that will cover the requirements of sewerage control. To the vigilance of local authority, the inculcation of the vital importance of safe provision in this respect, and a general increase of knowledge, we must look for the condition of things so desirable.

The opening of sink-drains from tenement or other houses or manufactories upon the public street, is an offence against sanitary law and common decency that should never be permitted, and yet in every manufacturing village these agents of ill-health and discomfort, by scores, call for the intervention of the local boards of health. In the crowded sections, occupied by the tenements of the laboring class, it has frequently been found of advantage in lessening the mawkish odor of drains, to purify the channels with copperas, borax, carbolic acid or charcoal; and it is earnestly recommended to officers of health, that wherever they have an oversight of the construction of drains, they counsel the creation of facilities therein for clearing and purifying.

A frequent source of health-disturbance, and of even the gravest results, has been found in the sink-spouts which, foul and unsightly, so often descend from the upper stories of tenement houses, forming direct avenues of connection between the higher rooms and the cesspool below, through which the insidious poison of sewer-gas finds its way.

At a well-known institution in the vicinity of Boston, there have recently occurred two deaths of visitors, who, occupying an ordinarily unused apartment, were subjected to the fatal influences of sewer-gas, which entered their room through an open window, close by which ran a water-conductor, which had its lower end entered in the sewer, into which the contents of four water-closets were discharged. A loose joint in the conductor at this point, is said to have permitted the escape of the gas into the room continually, being prevented from escaping at the top by obstructions in the gutter. Virulent attacks of typhoid followed, to which both succumbed, and a lesson of grave importance should be drawn by sanitary inspectors therefrom.

The failure to provide a proper ventilating flue running from all water-closets, etc., through the roof of the dwelling,

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bolt has been the cause of death of many whose conveniences of 0022 home, for want of knowledge in their management, have

become their unrecognized destroyers. It can hardly be doubted that in the not remote future the requirements of sanitary science will be so far admitted as to place our architects and builders under proper restraint, to the end that there shall be in their work, full recognition of established principles of hygiene.

The frequent breakage of sink and sewer drains near cellars, and the escape of their foul contents into them, is a source of danger that requires careful observation and prompt action.

It is useless to contend against the use of cesspools in a town, so long as no complete system of sewerage is provided. The work of a local board in reference thereto will be to insure that they are properly constructed and kept, and that they are replaced by sewerage, which, although the costliest of all sanitary appliances, is also in the end the cheapest and most indispensable. In the generality of suburban towns two forms of cesspools prevail; viz., one, so constructed as to permit of the percolation of the fluid contents through the partially open sides and bottom thereof (and this is by far the most common); and another, in which the walls are so constructed of cement, brick, or other material, as to retain all the contents received. Of this latter variety there are far too few. The almost universal form of cesspool, in many sections, is simply a pit of variable dimensions, dug in close proximity to the dwelling (both because it saves drain-pipe and is more convenient for the emptying of the slop-jar), its sides of earth being prevented from falling in by sundry corner-posts and loosely fastened boards or planks, the bottom being left open and the top more or less completely covered with planks and earth, an aperture being sometimes, but too rarely, left, for the escape of gas or the pouring in of waste. From such cesspools as this, arise a large percentage of the various ills of a community. Against such, local boards of health should wage eternal war. The openness which so recommends this style of pit (because thereby large amounts of waste are disposed of through a small excavation), and the

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trifling cost of its construction, are the deceitful arguments that lure to danger and ultimate expense.

In an area of six rods square, in the centre of which the writer is now sitting, there are contained one barn-cellar, four privy vaults, four sink-drains, two cesspools (such as just described) two cisterns and three wells, and herein the wells are about equidistant from all the sources of contamination. The character of the soil, being a stiff under-stratum of clay, with clayey-loam on top, has alone prevented, in the two years this state of things has existed, most disastrous results from occurring, and that such must come in time none can doubt. When the overcharged soil has become permeated with the poisonous infiltrations of these several sources, its work of destroying will be no longer delayed. The evil of this condition of things is recognized and deplored, but there is no readily open avenue of escape. Property of considerable value covers or adjoins this area, which lies adjacent to one of the best streets in the town, and there is no land in which to more widely separate these evil agencies.

Sink water and waste must be taken care of in some way, while wells and cisterns must be had. The only hopes of relief from this distressing and dangerous state of things .seem to lie in the early introduction of sewerage or water systems, preferably both, or the adoption by all interested of the largest possible use of the dry-earth plan, involving under such circumstances no inconsiderable labor, inconvenience and expense. Still the difficulty must be met, or disease is to follow, and inasmuch as this condition is also that of numerous areas of the closely populated town, it is evident that in general measures of relief the remedy must come.

The close cesspool, properly cared for and emptied, while primarily more expensive than the other, may be made a source of some return, and, rightly ventilated and its pipes trapped, will be free from the charge of contributing to dis

A serious inconvenience has, until recently, attached to the emptying of such close cesspits, as well as privy-vaults, often from their walled-in location and difficulty of access, and always from the character of their contents. A remedy for these difficulties is found in the new apparatus of the


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