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It was reported to the State Board of Health at its late meeting in Charleston that the sickness and mortality of Wheeling from typhoid fever was inordinately great. The State Board therefore passed the following resolution :
Resolved, That the secretary be directed to visit the city of Wheeling, and examine into the causes of such excessive prevalance of typhoid fever, and to make such suggestions to the muni. cipal authorities as the circumstances of the case may seem to demand. The fifth section of the health law says: “The Board shall take cognizance of the interests of the life and health of the inhabitants of the State, and make or cause to be made sanitary investigations and inquiries respecting the causes of diseases, especially of endemics, epidemics and the means of prevention, the sources of mortality, the effects of localities, employments, habits and circumstances of life on the public health, &c." I therefore visited Wheeling on the 11th of August, 1887, and made such examination as the time and opportunities afforded. The main point being as to the possible and probable cause of the excessive mortality from typhoid fever as shown by the books of the Health Officer of the city. It is reported that the mortality from this cause has been very great for a number of years past and is progressively increasing from year to year. Now the source of ontagion of tvphoid fever is generally conceded to be the water supply. My attention was therefore directed first to the probable sources of contamination of Wheeling's water supply. I found several sources which would make such contamination probable. First. The point of intake of the water is far down in the city, at the point selected many years ago, when the city was much smaller than at present, there being now a population of some several thousand people residing above that point, all of whose sewage empties into the river above point of intake (jumping station) in this part of the city are to be found the hospital, seyeral factories, many stables and cow sheds, also the old cemetery, with its possible drainage through Jonathans Run. The drainage from the town of Martin's Ferry across the river is deflected to this side, also at low water by the dam placed across the river between the island and the Ohio shore. All these causes would make contamination of the water more than probable.
The analysis made in 1884 by Dr. Charles Smart, of the Surgeon General's office, Washington, D. C., establishes the fact of such contamination. And later analysis show still further contamination. Dr. Reeves, in bis report as Secretary of the State Board of Health, dated January 1, 1885, says: “At Wheeling, the chief city of West Virginia, the water supply is unfit for the public use, for it is within the truth to state that, including the population of Martin's Ferry, the refuse from the homes of 10,000 people finds entrance into the Ohio river immediately above that of supply to the water works. If filth from hundreds of households, manufacturing establishments, privy-vaults, and other cesspools, horse and cow sheds, and the stinking bodies of dead animals, were all the sources of pollution of the water supply of Wheeling, its citizens might congratulate themselves that at least they were not worse off than some of the neighboring cities, but in addition to the sources of pollution just mentioned, an old di lapidated cemetery, Mt. Wood, occupying the hill at the northern part of the city, and within half a mile above the water works, is a highly probable factor of contamination." There is no evidence that there has been any material improvement in the condition of things since this report was made, but that the condition is as bad now as it was at that time.
Dr. Smart, in the analysis above referred to, says: “It (the analysis) a sewage inflow into the stream. * * Sewage is decomposed by the influences acting in running water and leaves only its skeleton in the form of the inorganic chlorides. * * but whether decomposed or undecomposed, sewage contamination is dangerous, not in itself, for waters polluted with sewage have been used for ages with impunity, but in that it may be accompanied by, and be the means of spreading the infection of typhoid fever and cholera. * * The germ, or poison of typhoid fever, may or may not be present in sewage, If it be not present the sewage is harmless as far as concerns the propagation of the disease; if it be present the water will convey the infection of typhoid fever whether the sewage be decomposed or not. In fact, there is no evidence that the agencies which destroy ordinary organism or sewage matter in its course down stream have the slightest influence in destroying or removing the cause of this fever. On the contrary all the evidence accumulated of late years shows the pereistum of the germ or poison after the destruction of the sewage material which originally accompanied it. * * The detection of sewage in water by chemical means is therefore of no moment. The point of interest is the contamination of the water supply. If this is proven the water is dangerous and is undoubtedly the cause of much preventable sickness."
That the water supply of Wheeling is contaminated I think may be taken for granted. The next question is how it is to be corrected. It should be prevented or remedied, but how several ways suggest themselves. 1st and best. Carry the point of intake above the point of contamination. This is the most natural and proper way to meet the difficulty. The cost of this plan is urged as an objection. Can that be weighed in the balance as against the health and lives yearly sacrificed to this Moloch, and once done there is an end of the cost, 2d. To put in an intercepting sewer; this will only meet the difficulty in part, for part of the contamination comes from the other side of the river. 3d. To attempt to purify the water by soine system of filtration. If this could be done it would involve a never-ending expense, and its result at best would be doubtful, for yet it has not been shown that any system of filtration is practicable on a large scale, and which will remove the germs of disease and make an unhealthy water healthy, though by removing matters held in suspension the appearance, taste and smell may be much improved.
Turning from impure and unhealthy water, I wish to say a word as to the condition of the air, especially as found along Wheeling creek, the effluvia from the various sources along this stream are not healthy and if not productive of typhoid fever, are capable of producing this disease, or by pressing the vital powers will lessen the ability to resist attacks. It has appeared for some time past as though the water and the air of the earth was to lie so contaminated by the waste and the offal of the inhabitants thereof that it would soon cease to be habitable. I must congratulate Wheeling for the solution of this vexed question, “What to do with garbage," I think the crematory solves the question, its work is perfect, though its present methods of handling the material are crude and imperfect. I would also suggest the method pursued in Glascow, Scotland, where the refuse is divided into the manurial and non manurial constituants. The former being put into a mixing machine, from which it comes in the form of a deodorized compound to be sold for agriculural purposes, whilst the latter is passed into the furnace and consumed.
In accordance with the resolution above quoted, it has seemed proper to make these suggestions which are respectfully submitted for your consideration, in the hope that your action in the matter may relieve your city from a large amount of sickness
and mortality from a preventable disease; whose source if not in filth, is thereby preserved and propogated. Very respectfully,
T. A. HARRIS, Secretary State Board of Health.
GENTLEMEN :—The pumping station for the water works of Wheeling occupies to-day the sight selected for it over half a century ago. The basin from which water is supplied for domestic and palatable purposes is situated upon the hillside, at the head of Eighth street, and at an elevation which gives from sixty-five to seventy pounds pressure to the square inch in the lower lying portions of the city, the pressure varying elsewhere from that to nothing. Possibly there are three hundred houses within the corporate limits of the city which are not supplied with water from the city mains. The Water Board has under process of construction a high service basin, which when completed will have a storage capacity of two and a half to three million gallons. The present basin has a capacity of seven hundred and seventy thousand gallons. The new basin will increase the pressure twenty-five or thirty pounds. The pipes through which the water is distributed are, for the most part, old and of inferior quality. The average consumption of water is about three million gallons per diem, It is not with the water works, however, that this article has to deal, but with the quality of the water dispensed through them, and some of the methods of water sanitation practiced in other cities.
The city of Wheeling has increased in population with the growth of years, until now it extends along the river one and a half miles above the pumping station, and the sewage of 250 acres of a densely populated portion of the city is drained into the river just above the intake of the water works.
It is well known that river waters are very variable in their constitution. They probably reach their maxinuum impurity during the periods of autumnal rain falls, and snow melting in spring, when the streams are swollen and turbid with the various kinds of filth washed from the surface of their drainage area. Ordinarily the converse is true when the water level is low, and the current fed less by surface shed rain showers than tributary springs.
But when, as is the case with the river from which the water supply of the city of Wheeling is obtained, the current is being constantly fed by sewers, the water is then more impure than at any other time. The city sewers are not the only sources of contamination. There are four or five large factories from which all impurities are drained directly or indirectly into the river. A large laundry, situated at the corner of Main and Fifth streets, less than three squares above the pumping station, discharge daily the washings from much of the dirty linen in the city into
the river, which fact of itsef, would be sufficient cause to con: demn the water as unfit for potable purposes. Then there is the Wheeling Hospital and Orphan Asylum, situated on the river bank between Second and Third streets, from which drain pipes discharge directly into the river all waste and effete matter from those institutions. Mt. Wood Cemetery, situated on the hill, seamed by coal entries long since abandoned, may or may not add to the already overwhelming contamination and pollution of the river water. Last, but not least, Martin's Ferry, a city of seven or eight thousand inhabitants, situated upon the Ohio side, one mile above Wheeling Water Works, last year erected water works, and has already begun the construction of sewers which will, when completed, discharge additional filth into the now over charged stream to the further detriment to the health of our citizens, who are obliged to drink the water thereof.
· It does seem almost incredible that a community like the city of Wheeling, which sustains four daily newspapers, and enjoys such a high standard of intelligence as to maintan a public library, should patiently tolorate a nuisance, such as emptying into the source of its water supply, the filthy, stinking, semiliquid emanations of all the sewers, from an area of at least onetenth of its population.
Although attention has been called to the various sources of pollution of the drinking water, through the public press and otherwise, time and time again, with all the fullness of an infinite disgust, and in terms which are still tolerably satisfactory to the most zealous opponents of public nastiness, and much has been done thereby to awaken the people to a sense of their danger, there are yet many doubting Thomases' who are either innocently, ignorantly, or by the force of careless habits, guilty of acquiescing to the fate of hundreds of their fellow creatures who die from filth diseases.
What are the duties of the State Board of Health in such a case? It is of the highest importance in the interest of the life and health of the people of any community, that they have a pure, wholesome and abundant water supply. The filthy condition of Wheeling's water supply is no longer a question.
Three remedies present themselves.
First,-Prevent the sewage from being discharged into the river.
Second.–Remove the water works to a point above sewage contamination; or
The first is impracticable, for while the sewage of North Wheeling might be carried safely past the intake of the water works, by means of intercepting sewers, that of Martin's Ferry would still contaminate.
It is not probable that the city of Wheeling will remove the works up the river for many years to come, on account of the vast sums which have been applied to the improvement of the