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in the New River Company's water varies as I to 4; and that in the Birmingham Corporation's water varies as i to 7 ; but the larger range of variation in the water of these last two supplies is dependent, doubtless, on the circumstance of their being mixed supplies, constituted of unequal proportions of their several contributories at different times. In the official phraseology with which we are so familiarphraseology of but little meaning, though the words are strong-it would be said that while the degree of “pollution by organic impurity” of the Glasgow water is twice as great at one time as at another, the degree of “polluţion by organic impurity” of the Birmingham water is seven times as great at one time as at another. The large extent of relative variation thus noticeable in respect to the organic matter of water, is common, as might be expected, to those other of its constituents, which also exist absolutely in very small quantity, and is, indeed, almost a consequence of the smallness of their absolute quantity. A somewhat parallel comparison may be adduced in the case of personal wealth. We know that while the wealth of a capitalist will, for the most part, vary only by a small percentage from month to month, the whole fortune of a beggar, his utmost riches being a matter of no consideration, may vary many fold in the course of a day, although by the absolute amount of only a few halfpence put into or taken out of his ragged pocket.
4.-GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS. So far, attention has been directed to the organic matter of potable water, solely from the point of view of its quantity. A much more important inquiry, however, has reference to its nature or quality. But this is too large and important a matter to be taken up at the fag end of an address, limited strictly to the duration of a short half-hour. That the organic matter of potable water is constituted, in the main, of dissolved, unorganised, and non-living matter, does not admit of question. Anything like an adequate discussion, however, of the origin, nature, and possible hygienic influence of this main portion of the organic matter, could not but involve a very long story. It may suffice here to say that, having regard to its origin and nature, and to the minuteness of its proportion, the presumption against any unwholesomeness attaching to its presence is very strong. To what extent living and organised matter may be also present; how far such living organic matter may include a something capable of developing zymotic disease; and, admitting all this, how far the liability of different waters to contain more or less of noxious living organic matter is related to the varying amounts which they contain of innoxious non-living organic matter, are questions far more difficult of solution. They are questions on which, in the present imperfect state of our knowledge on the subject, it behoves every one to speak with caution ; but in my own view, having regard to what is observed and recorded respecting the health of differently supplied populations, and to what little is known of the natural history of diseaseproducing organisms, the preponderance of evidence does not, I think, favour an alarmful answer. however, are of a different opinion. But the address which I have been asked to read at this Conference, is on the chemistry of potable water; and my concern to-day is solely with the chemical aspect of the subject. It is not from biologic or pathogenetic inquiries, but from the results of the chemical analysis of the water supplied to Londonfrom the mere determinations of the quantity of its organic matter-that its wholesomeness is month after month, by suggestion, impugned. On this point I join issue altogether. Further, it seems to me an abuse of chemistry, that a chemist who on other than chemical grounds may, rightly or wrongly, have satisfied himself of the unwholesomeness of a particular water supply, should state and summarise the results of his analyses in such a fashion as to make it appear that the unwholesomeness, which he really infers on other grounds, is deducible from the results of his periodical chemical examinations. It is well understood that a statement, of which the verbal accuracy cannot be VOL. VIII.-H. C.
challenged, may, nevertheless, be far from a warrantable statement. It may convey a suggestio falsi, and include a suppressio veri. Such I take to be the case with the statement, paraded month after month, in what is an official, and should be a scrupulously impartial report, as to the relative "amounts of organic impurity" contained in individual samples of metropolitan water, compared with a particular decennial average amount present in the Kent Company's water,-a standard, by-the-bye, of which the value is known and used only by the reporter, whose comparison, accordingly, it is impossible to check.
This monthly statement suggests, I take it, the notion that spring water is the proper type of what river water, or at any rate of what metropolitan water, should be-a notion entirely without foundation, and discordant with the reporter's own strong recommendation of lake-water for the supply of London. It further suggests the notion that the desirableness and general wholesomeness of different waters are inversely proportional to their relative "amounts of organic impurity,” irrespective of the origin and nature of this so-called impurity,-a notion equally devoid of foundation. On the other hand, the statement in question suppresses the fact that spring-water, lake-water, and river-water, have each their special characteristics, excellencies, and defects. It suppresses the fact that the so-called "previous sewage contamination" of the standard spring-water is as relatively high, as its“ amount of organic impurity” is relatively low. It suppresses the fact that the "amount of organic impurity” in the metropolitan river supply, though threefold or fourfold that present in the spring-water supply, is nevertheless almost infinitesimal in absolute quantity. It suppresses the fact that the “amount of organic impurity” in the highly reputed Loch Katrine supply is, during the summer months, in excess of, and is on the average of the year substantially identical with, the summer yearly amounts respectively present in the metropolitan river supply. It further suppresses the fact that the head waters of the Thames, by the time they reach Lechlade, about 22
miles only from their source, and 120 miles above the Companies' intake have exchanged their character of springwater for that of river-water, and irrespective of urban contamination, contain an "amount of organic impurity identical in quantity with, and chemically undistinguishable in kind from, that met with in the river-water at Hampton. I dispute altogether the notion, suggested by the mode of statement adopted in the monthly reports made to the Registrar-General, that the relative unwholesomeness of the Kent Company's water, the New River Company's water, and the Birmingham Corporation's water, was, during the last eighteen months, approximately as the numbers 1, 2, and 3; or, in other words, that it was in the proportion of the 8-hundredths, the 15-hundreths, and the 23-hundreths, of a grain of dissolved organic matter per gallon, present in the three supplies respectively. I contend, further, that the New River Company's water would have been no more wholesome or unwholesome respectively, if, instead of actually containing 15-hundreths of a grain of organic matter per gallon—this organic matter being chiefly of vegetable origin, and a product of ordinary fluviatile life--it had contained, like the Kent Company's water, as little as 8-hundreths of a grain, or like the Birmingham Corporation's water, as much as 23-hundreths of a grain of organic matter, the absolute variations of a tenth of a grain or so of such dissolved organic matter per gallon, being too small to have any real hygienic importance whatever.
If it were indeed the fact that the dissolved organic matter of potable water, taken as a whole, is of such a nature that, in the proportions in which it is met with, it is capable, on occasions, of developing and spreading epidemic disease, it is manifest that no plea, based on the actual smallness of its proportion, would be of any avail to save it from hopeless condemnation. It is manifest also, on this assumption, that the determination of the variations in the proportions of organic matter present in a water, notwithstanding the minuteness of even the maximum proportion,
would be a determination of the highest significance ; and further, that any information furnished in intelligible language to the general public, as to the results of a comparison of different waters with one another in regard to their respective proportions of organic matter, would have an extreme degree of interest and value. But all this is based on the hypothesis that the dissolved organic matter of water, or at any rate the dissolved organic matter of some water, taken in its entirety, is a noxious constituent of the water, capable, in proportion to its quantity, of setting up epidemic disease ; a view, it need scarcely be said, which is sustained by no sort of evidence, and supported by no weight of authority. If, indeed, the organic matter of water were really of this noxious character, the conclusions above set forth, with regard to the propriety and value of a comparison of waters with one another in respect to so noxious a constituent, would be undeniable. But if, on the other hand, the minute proportion of dissolved organic matter met with in potable water is constituted mainly of innocuous vegetable extractive, with a trace or more of innocuous animal extractive ; and if, at the same time, this organic matter does not affect in any appreciable degree the taste, or colour, or appearance of the water, clearly all variations in the amounts present in potable water, that fall within the limits of an exceedingly minute proportion, are matters of no consideration whatever; and this whether they be variations in the proportions existing in different waters, or variations met with in the same water at different times. And the same conclusion would hold good, even if the organic matter of water, while constituted in the main and at most times wholly, of innocuous extractive, was, nevertheless, liable to include at other times a sub-proportion of an effectively noxious agent; unless, indeed, it could be shown that the liability of different waters to contain this noxious agent was in proportion to their relative amounts of dissolved organic matter--a proposition so preposterous as never to have been seriously put forward. Whether or not there exist any good grounds for calling in