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question the excellence and wholesomeness of the water, supplied to probably the healthiest great city in the world, is another matter. Speaking as a chemist, I represent that there are no chemical grounds for such a contention. In support of this position, I would call to mind that the last Royal Commission on Water Supply, after hearing very varied evidence, much of it of the usual alarmist character, reported to the effect that the presence of a small quantity of organic matter in drinking water was not necessarily prejudicial ; and that there was not any evidence to satisfy them that the particular organic matter present in filtered Thames water was prejudicial. Their conclusion on the general question is expressed in the following words :“Having carefully considered all the information we have been able to collect, we see no evidence to lead us to believe that the water now supplied by the companies is not generally good and wholesome.”
ON THE PURIFICATION OF WATER BY
IRON ON A LARGE SCALE.
By W. ANDERSON, M. Inst.C.E.
In January, 1883, in a paper on the Antwerp Waterworks, read at the Institution of Civil Engineers, I described the application of Professor Bischof's method of filtration, through a mixture of spongy iron and gravel, to the purification of the waters of the River Nethe. The eighteen months' additional experience gained has shown that, so far as the purification of the water is concerned, Professor Bischof's process leaves little to be desired, but the working of the system has been costly, and the area of land required, as well as the quantity of iron necessary has, in the case of the Antwerp water at any rate, proved very much beyond the inventor's expectations.
The increased demands of the town rendered it neces
sary to extend the arrangements for purifying the water, and it became my duty to advise the directors of the company on the best means of doing this.
The extension of Professor Bischof's method would have involved so great an outlay, that after trying, unsuccessfully, many experiments on direct filtration through unmixed iron at high rates of Aow, I determined to adopt a plan first suggested to me, some years ago, by our chairman, Sir Frederick Abel, of agitating the water to be purified with iron instead of attempting to filter it. The object, in either case, was to expose the water as much as possible to an extended surface of iron, consequently any plan by which the iron could be made to keep itself clean by rubbing against itself continually, would seem to be a more rational way of attaining this object, than of trusting to a partial filtration through a more or less spongy material.
The obstacle to trying Sir Frederick Abel's method at a much earlier date, was the belief entertained by Professor Bischof that a contact of about 45 minutes was necessary to ensure complete purification, and any such time would be fatal to mechanical means of performing the work. The late Professor Way, and Mr. Ogston, it is true, had shown that with very finely divided iron the effect was much more rapid, but there was still a doubt about its per
In the autumn of last year, a revolving cylinder, 4 ft. 6 in. in diameter, and 5 ft. 6 in. long, was adapted to try Sir Frederick Abel's system. It was fitted with inlet and outlet pipes, and with shelves or ledges for scooping up the iron, raising it to the top of the cylinder, and then letting it fall through the water.
At first I began to run water through at 12 gallons per minute, which gave a contact of about 45 minutes, but I found that at this rate the water was very heavily charged with iron, I gradually increased the quantity to 30 gallons per minute, and then found that 1'20 grains of iron were dissolved per gallon, or about twelve times more than experience at Antwerp showed to be necessary. The flow
was increased to 60 gallons, and even then o'9 grains per gallon were dissolved.
The experiment looked so hopeful that I fitted much larger pipes to the apparatus, and having made some other dispositions connected with maintaining a uniform distribution of iron in the cylinder, and preventing it being washed away by the comparatively rapid current that would be possible, I sent the “Revolver," as it came to be called, to Antwerp, where it was put to work at the end of last February, and has continued to operate ever since.
The head available for forcing the water through the “Revolver," is, at Antwerp, limited to 5 feet, but by fitting very large pipes, I have managed to get 166 gallons per minute through; this gives a contact of about 35 minutes, and is so amply sufficient, that I feel sure that, even for the waters of the Nethe, much less time will be adequate.
The charge of iron is about 500 lbs., and the quantity taken up by the water, including impurities and very fine iron washed away, during a run of 33 days, was Oʻ176 grain per gallon.
By making suitable arrangements, and choosing a favourable time with respect to the demands of the town, we were able to obtain samples of water that have been purified by the “Revolver” only, and after proper exposure to the air, followed by filtration through one of the large sand filters, the result obtained has been that the colour was very little different from distilled water, the free ammonia was reduced from o'032 grains per gallon to o‘oor, and the albumenoid ammonia from o'013 grains to o'0045.
The “Revolver” turns at the rate of about į revolution per minute, and requires scarcely appreciable power. The area occupied by apparatus for dealing with 2,000,000 gallons per day is 29 feet by 24 feet, and it can be introduced into any existing system of filters, for by enlarging the in and outlet pipes to a suitable diameter, a head of some 12 inches will suffice to pass the water through.
It can easily be arranged so as to be used or not, as the state of the water to be purified may warrant, and the
consumption of iron being only about 20 lb. per million gallons, is quite an insignificant expense. It will be found to remove all colour from water, whether caused by peat or clay, and will facilitate the action of sand filters by the peculiar curdling effect the iron has on the impurities.
During the experiments made at Erith, it was noticed that considerable quantities of gas collected in the upper part of the "Revolver." On collecting this gas, it was found to extinguish a lighted taper instantly, and on analysis was found to contain only 8 per cent. of oxygen.
8 It was observed from the first, that the animal and vegetable life which was so abundant and troublesome in the natural waters of the Nethe, lying over the spongy iron filters, had quite disappeared in the water, otherwise in exactly the same circumstances lying over the sand filters, and I always supposed that this was due chiefly to mechanical filtration through the spongy iron having separated all the germs, spores, and seeds which come to life above it. But during the recent hot weather it has been found that the water from the “Revolver," though it contains all the impurities of the natural water, has been modified by the action of iron to such an extent that neither animal nor vegetable life is apparent over the sand filters. Without presuming to draw very wide inferences from this fact with reference to the action of iron upon organisms connected with disease, it may, at least, be pointed out that the absence of visible life in water treated by iron on a large scale confirms, in a great measure, the experiments of Dr. Frankland, Dr. Voëlcker, Mr. Hatton, Professor Bischof, and others. It is due to the last named gentleman to state that to his persistent advocacy the introduction of iron as a purifier is mainly due. It must be borne in mind that the system does not depend on filtration only, but, first, on a process of exposure to iron, which decomposes the organic matter, and kills living organisms; and, secondly, on simple filtration, which merely separates the noxious matters which had been previously attacked by the iron. The waters of the Nethe are exceptionally bad,
and heavily charged with impurities, so that the test both of Professor Bischof's and Sir Frederick Abel's systems has been very severe.
Mr. W. S. MITCHELL, wished to make a remark or two with reference to Mr. Sorby's paper. The difficulty had always been to get small spores in such a form that they could be seen, but a plan had now been adopted to cultivate these spores, and in the Exhibition there were two methods shown of doing this. One at No. 193 in the Central Avenue, exhibited by Messrs. Nicholson and Mr. Carpenter, and the other in the Physiological Laboratory, where Dr. Koch's method was exhibited, which consisted of cultivation in a gelatine mixture, a kind of solid soup, and that was under the charge of Mr. Watson Cheyne. A plate of glass was taken on which some of this mixture was spread ; on this a single drop of water was placed, which was then covered with glass, so that no matter from the air could reach the surface, and then the spores were allowed to grow.
Some could now be seen which had been growing for fifteen or sixteen days. This method had been carried out, he understood, in Berlin for two years, but this was the first time it had been shown in this country.
Mr. JABEZ HOGG wished to say, in reference to certain remarks which had fallen from the Chairman, that he had no intention of defending the conditions of London cisterns in general, and that his remarks of yesterday applied strictly to well-covered house cisterns : he had always acknowledged that pollution must take place in uncovered tanks. He might add that in the evidence he gave at the Kingston inquiry, he stated that the small fish and eels, and other unwholesome things found in some cisterns, could not have spontaneously bred there. With regard to