On the Pollution of the Rivers of the Kingdom
POLLUTION OF THE RIVERS
MAGNITUDE OF THE EVIL,
AND THE URGENT NECESSITY
IN THE INTEREST OF
THE PUBLIC HEALTH & THE FISHERIES
CIRCULATED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE
FISHERIES PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION,
23, LOWER SEYMOUR STREET, PORTMAN SQUARE, W.
President—HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND.
Vice-President—LORD DE BLAQUIERE.
The Council of the Fisheries Preservation Association, in bringing under public notice the subject of the pollution of rivers, deem it unnecessary to use many words of their own in order to secure due attention to an evil which in its wide-spread extent and baneful effects has become one of the deepest national importance.
The facts adduced in these pages, taken from the most authentic sources, sufficiently prove its colossal and necessarily ever increasing proportions, and trumpet-tongued proclaim the necessity of some prompt and comprehensive remedial measure, to protect from further injury and destruction the health and lives of the people, and save from further annihilation what, but for these pollutions and other grievous injuries to the river fisheries, would form a very valuable addition to their food.
The Council therefore in the few observations they propose to make, need do little more than point out (but to the important fact they invite special attention), that while the Royal Commissioners and the other authorities quoted have all in the strongest terms denounced the pollution of our rivers by sewage, and mine, and manufacturing refuse, as a most intolerable and dangerous nuisance that must be abated, they one and all at the same time concur in declaring that it can be abated and in a manner satisfactory to all parties; that sewage can easily and profitably, and without danger to the public health be got rid of by application to the land, and that the noxious refuse of mines and manufactures can without any serious interference with the industrial pursuits of the country, within reasonable limits of expenditure, and even in many cases with actual profit to the mine owner or manufacturer, be disposed of in other ways than by sending it into the rivers, and thereby poisoning with it, the public, the fish, the air, and the running waters of the kingdom.
In an Appendix will be found a short statement of the efforts, commencing in 1855, which have been made to free our rivers from their dreadful state of pollution.
Though those efforts have, it will be seen, been strenuous and continuous, the Council regret to state that with the single exception of the main drainage of the metropolis nothing, absolutely nothing, has yet been accomplished in the shape of effective practical legislation towards putting down this gigantic and dangerous nuisance, consequently that nuisance now overspreads the land in all directions, it being a lamentable truth that (with the one exception just noted of the Thames at London) there is scarcely a river, a rivulet, or a brook, contiguous to a population, or to a manufactory, or a mine, that is free from its pernicious influence.
From the remarks addressed in August last by the Home Secretary to the deputation which waited on the Right Honorable gentleman upon this subject from the Fisheries’ Preservation Association, namely, that “he did not intend to continue the investigations, as he believed that the experience gained by the inquiries into a few rivers would govern the whole” the Council were led confidently to hope that Government would be prepared to introduce this Session a measure adequate to meet the evil.
In that expectation they have been grievously disappointed, for on the 24th Feb. last, Mr. Hardy informed the member for Sunderland Mr. Candlish, that “he was not prepared to legislate on the subject this Session,” (see Appendix, page 52) and the Home Secretary followed up that declaration by appointing during last month a fresh Commission to continue the inquiries which in the preceding August he then considered had gone far enough, so that it seems but too manifest, that as far as the Government is concerned all legislation in the matter is indefinitely postponed.
Be that however as it may, and be the action or inaction of the Government what it may, the Council on their part will continue their best and most energetic efforts in the cause, until a law has been obtained potent enough to grapple with and put an end to this monster evil, but in doing battle for an object which so vitally concerns the health and interests of the public, the Council feel themselves entitled to look for the active aid and co-operation of the public, without which they fear they can do but little, and they would here impress it on all Towns and Constituencies suffering from these pollutions that besides holding public meetings on the subject, in no way can that aid and co-operation be so effectively rendered as by their petitioning the Legislature for relief and instructing their representatives in Parliament to support such petitions by every means in their power.
In order to make the fearful state of the rivers of the country more generally known, without the necessity (to acquire that knowledge) of toiling through the voluminous Blue Books, &c., the Council have extracted from those unimpeachable testimonies all the necessary facts of the case, and have embodied them in the compendious form of the pamphlet which they now issue.
This pamphlet is circulated by them in the earnest hope that it may help to evoke such a powerful and decisive expression of public opinion on the question, that the Government and the Legislature will be forced to provide, without more vexatious and needless delay, some thoroughly efficient remedy for a state of things which, as was most truly said by the mover of the second reading of the "River Waters Protection Bill of 1865," "is a disgrace to a nation that prided itself on its civilization and advancement."
Fisheries Preservation Association,
23, Lower Seymour Street,
Portman Square, W.
The Council have the high gratification of stating that His Grace the Duke of Northumberland has consented to preside over their future deliberations,—Lord de Blaquiere having with the utmost consideration and kindness agreed to act as Vice-President.
POLLUTION OF RIVERS.
Extracts from the Reports of Royal Commissions, Parliamentary Committees, Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries, Medical Officers of the Privy Council, Registrar General, &c. &c., presented or returned to Parliament between 1855 and 1868.
Rivers ascertained by House of Commons' Committee of this year to have become pestilential. "Ten years ago," said Lord Robert Montagu, in his masterly speech when moving, on the 8th March, 1865, the second reading of the "River Waters Protection Bill," "the Committee on the Nuisances Removal Bill of 1855 had inquired into this subject, and had ascertained that our Rivers had become absolutely pestilential, and were, in fact, nothing but main sewers, and had "urged the Government to take steps for the removal of such disastrous influences."
[Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. 177, p. 1309.]
26 March, 1858. First or Preliminary Report of the Commissioners on the Sewage of Towns In 1858 a Royal Commission on the sewage of towns reported (page 27) that—
"From the whole of our inquiry we have arrived at the following conclusions, one of them being:—
"That the increasing pollution of the rivers and streams of the country is an evil of national importance which urgently demands the application of remedial measures; that the discharge of sewage and the noxious refuse of factories into them is a source of nuisance and danger to health; that it acts injuriously not only on the locality where it occurs, but on the populations of the districts through which the polluted waters flow; that it poisons the water which in many cases forms the sole supply of the populations for all purposes, including drinking; and that it destroys the fish."
4 July, 1860.
Report of Committee of the House of Lords on Salmon Fishings, (Scotland.) In 1860, among other recommendations, a Committee of the House of Lords recommended (page 12)—
"That penalties to be recovered by summary process be imposed for allowing any refuse matters from any mill or manufactory to go into any river; and
"That a bill be introduced by Her Majesty's Government in conformity with the above recommendations."
7 Feb., 1861.
Report of the Commission on the Salmon Fisheries. (England and Wales.) In 1861 the Commissioners on Salmon Fisheries reported (pages 19—21) that—
"The most striking case of contamination of waters by the efflux from mines was in the Ystwith and Rheidol at Aberystwith."
These two streams both contained salmon in some abundance thirty years ago. Since the working of the Goginan lead mines, a total extinction of animal life has taken place in the Rheidol. The Ystwith has been similarly affected by other lead works." "The most distinct evidence was given us of the destruction of salmon from this cause. It was even stated that the sea-fishery to the extent of some miles out had been much deteriorated from the same cause."
"No other case of destruction so complete was brought under our notice; but there were others of the noxious effect of mine waters, in more or less degree, which, if continued, must ultimately prove fatal to the fish. Among these we may mention the Tawe, Neath, Rhymney, Towey, Taff, the South Tyne, &c."
"In Cornwall the salmon fisheries may be said to be virtually destroyed by the mines."August 1861.
Second Report of the Commissioners on the Sewage of Towns. And in the same year (1861) the Commissioners on the sewage of towns in a further report, pages 4 to 9, give a frightful picture, (drawn from their own personal inspection) of the pollution of the rivers Irwell, Irk, Roch, Croal, Tonye, Tame, Mersey, Bollin, and Medlock, saying of the surpassing filth of the last, where it forms the head of the Bridgewater Canal, "no description can give an adequate idea;" adding, that "such is its consistency, it is said birds walk over it," Derwent, Aire, Calder and Don in their respective courses through or near Manchester, Middleton, Rochdale, Bolton, Staleybridge, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Ashton, Stockport, Macclesfield, Walsall, West Bromwich, Burg, Oldham, Derby, Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield, Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, &c., &c., after which the Commissioners proceed to say:—
"If the discharge of solid matters of sewage and other refuse into rivers is prevented, the chief part of the inconvenience, which is now rapidly rising to the proportion of a national evil, would at once be arrested. This can be easily and fully accomplished within reasonable limits of expenditure, and we urge, as the first and all important step towards securing this object, and the permanent improvement and protection of the rivers of the country, that a general local jurisdiction and conservancy be created throughout the kingdom, with adequate powers and proper guarantees for their due administration." Adding (pages 11, 12, 13) that—"Notwithstanding the incompleteness of our inquiry, we trust enough has now been said as to the enormous loss and injury produced in various ways, by the present state of neglect and misuse of our rivers, to secure immediate attention with a view to the adoption of general and decided measures to arrest this great and growing evil.
As regards the deterioration of water for domestic and other useful purposes, the pollution of rivers is an evil of immense magnitude. In extreme cases the water is unfit for any kind of use; but long before this degree of foulness is reached, the water has been unfit for purposes of cleanliness, and from a very much earlier stage of contamination has been utterly unfit for drinking. The last mentioned evil deserves very particular attention, for the danger to health occasioned by the consumption of polluted water, is, in our opinion, infinitely greater than any danger which the effluvia of polluted water can occasion. Water, tainted but very slightly with sewage, may determine terrible outbreaks of disease among the populations which drink of it; and, although in such cases as that of Manchester (where the water is grossly and offensively foul), there is little chance that people will drink that water, yet in cases of less obvious contamination, tainted water is, perhaps, extensively drunk. Such water, supplied by Water Companies, has, in various cases, been suspected, or proved to have determined, on a very large scale, the distribution of cholera deaths during times of epidemic visitation; as in our South London districts, during the two last epidemics of cholera; at other times it has, probably, exerted equal influence, in determining the distribution of deaths from ordinary diarrhœal diseases; and on various occasions it has been shown, that what to the common eye is an inappreciable pollution of water by sewage, may yet imply very serious dangers of infection for the persons who consume such water. On these grounds, seeing that brooks and rivers are almost universally the sources from which Water Companies derive their supplies for large urban populations, we deem it to be of essential importance to the public health, that the running waters of the country should be strictly protected from pollution." Among other conclusions they arrived at, the Commissioners, at page 39, submitted the following:—
That this condition of rivers is a public and national nuisance, it interferes with the convenience and comfort of all classes of the people, it damages various and important interests as manufacturing establishments, canals, fisheries, and so on; it deteriorates property to a large extent, and as interfering with a main source of water supply is of serious importance to the public health"
8th Feb., 1862.
1st Annual Report of the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries. In 1862 the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries, at page 27, report that among many other rivers—such as the Istwith and Rheidol, Pontypool River, the South Tyne, and the Eden (at Carlisle), &c.—found to be grievously affected by various forms of pollution.
"The Calder is so polluted by dye and print works, that the fish in it have been nearly, if not quite."
2nd March, 1863.
2nd Annual Report of Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries, (England and Wales). And in 1863, after referring (pages 59 to 63) to the way in which the Kent by paper works, the Dovey, Wye, Teign, Tamar, Tavey, and South Tyne by mines, the Tawe by copper and other works, and a tributary of the Usk by chemical works, are severally poisoned and the fish destroyed, the Inspectors conclude their 2nd Report by saying:—
"We are confident that the injury done to such rivers as are polluted is capable of great reduction, and that if, by mechanical means, the great proportion of the poison from mines or factories can be extracted before the fouled water reached the river, the small quantity that escapes would be neutralised by the body of pure water that receives it. Such means do exist, and in all cases, in our opinion, are a source of profit to their employers."
Deputation from the Sanitary Associations of Great Britain and the Fisheries' Preservation Association to Lord Palmerston. In August, 1863, a deputation from the Sanitary Associations of Great Britain and the "Fisheries Preservation Association," waited on the late Lord Palmerston, on the subject of the pollution of rivers and and its prevention, when his Lordship fully recognizing the extreme gravity of that evil, and the necessity of Association putting an end to it, expressed his intention of bringing forward a Government measure for the purpose,—and had he lived no doubt he would have done so with the same energy his Lordship evinced in suppressing by legislative enactment the smoke nuisance, a nuisance however, which, great as it was, only affected one element, while the pollution of rivers, poisons two, air as well as water.
His Lordship having requested the deputation to submit its views and wishes in writing, a letter was addressed to him, from which the following are extracts:—
London, 4 March, 1864.
4 March, 1864. Joint Letter of Lords Ebury and Shaftesbury, on behalf of the Sanitary Associations of Great Britain, and Lords Saltoun and Llanover, the President and Vice-President of the Fisheries Preservation Association, to Viscount Palmerston, First Lord of the Treasury. [Parl. Paper 224, April 20, 1864.] "'My Lord,
"When we had the honour of an interview with your Lordship, you requested us to submit, in writing, the several propositions we might desire to make, for preventing the pollution of streams.
"The pollution of rivers and streams has now become very general, and great injuries result therefrom. These may be considered—
"First, as affecting the public at large in a sanitary point of view, and what is called in Scotland the 'amenity' of the district.
"And secondly, the fisheries, many of which have been totally destroyed by the deleterious matter, which is thrown into, or suffered to flow into, the rivers and streams.
"As regards the injury to the health and comfort of the population living upon the banks of rivers and streams, or in their immediate neighbourhood, it is fortunately unnecessary to use our own language, because the case has been set forth in its true light, in clear and unmistakeable terms, in the reports presented by the eminent men who composed the Sewage of Towns Commission."
The Letter after quoting from the first report of the Commission on Sewage of towns in 1858, the "conclusion" (before given at length, page 7) come to by those Commissioners, namely, that
"'The increasing pollution of the rivers and streams of the country, is an evil of national importance, which urgently demands the application of remedial measures, &c.," proceeds.
"As regards injuries to Fisheries resulting from the pollution of the waters by noxious matters, we have only to refer to the very excellent report of the Fishery Commissioners of 1860, presented to Parliament in 1861, for an exemplification of the manner in which valuable Fisheries have been destroyed.
"In that report it is shown that some rivers have been so impregnated with deleterious matter, that not a fish is to be found in them, whereas formerly those rivers were well stocked with fish. It is also shown in the same report, (page 20) that not only have fish been destroyed, but that "Animals grazing on the banks, cows, horses, pigs, and poultry have been poisoned hy eating the grass which in times of flood has been covered by the infected waters."
"We do not wish to throw any obstacles in the way of trade. But we desire that the most efficient means should be provided for preventing injury to the public, and damages to fisheries.
"We are confident that with care, and with comparatively small expense, the nuisances which the public and the owners of fisheries so generally complain of may be prevented.
"Under the Gas Work Clauses Act, 1847, and under the Public Health Act,1858, proprietors of gas works are subject to a penalty of 200l., and also to heavy daily penalties, if they permit refuse from gas works to flow into any stream. We think that the occupiers of other works should also be liable to penalties to be enforced in a summary manner for polluting public streams and the waters frequented by fish. If there are any remedies under existing laws, those remedies are so expensive, that few will encounter the costs, and the promoters of nuisances relying upon this, go on undisturbed, deriving benefit from the injury which they inflict upon the public.
"Such then beinar the state of the case, we entreat your lordship to lose no time in proposimg such measures as may seem best adapted to redress the injury complained of, and to prevent the spread of this enormous evil. Thousands of miles of streams which were designed by Providence to minister to the wants and necessities of man, give fertility to the earth, and beauty to the landscape, are not only rendered useless, offensive to the eye, and repugnant to taste and smell, but are changed into elements of disease and death. Where this state of things has existed for a long time, it cannot be remedied in a day. But no one who has paid attention to this subject has any doubt, that if a reasonable time be allowed for the carrying into effect of remedial measures, this can be done without at all seriously interfering with the interests of trade and manufacture.
"The country is greatly to blame for having permitted this evil to assume its present gigantic proportions, but if with our eyes fully opened, by the results of public enquiry, to its deleterious and demoralising influence, we permit it to continue and extend itself, we shall be unpardonable.
"But we need hardly remind your Lordship that every day's delay will increase our embarrassments, and that the sooner a check is put upon the present wholesale wanton destruction of one of the first necessaries of life, the easier will be our return to that system of effectual preservation of our streams from which unhappily we have so widely departed."
7th March, 1864.
3rd Annual Report of the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries (England and Wales), pp. 20, 21, 22 In the 3rd Annual Report of the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries (1864), after instancing (from replies sent in by report of the Conservators of Rivers to the Inspectors, pages 20–22) the following rivers as variously polluted by gas and dye-works, sewerage, paper mills, lead and other mines, petroleum, tin, kianising, vitriol and creosote works, viz, the Eden, Kent, Derwent, Calder, Dee (at Chester), Dovey, Tify, Rumney, Towey, Tave, Severn (at Gloucester), Wye, Usk, Tamer, Teighn, Bovey, Exe, Wear, South Tyne, and Tees, and some of them very grievously, as the Calder, Dee (at Chester), by gas and petroleum works; Dovey, Towey, Tave, Tify, Wye, and South Tyne, by lead and other mines, which have injured the Tify for fourteen or fifteen miles, and in the case of the Dovey, taken ten years' purchase from the value of every acre on its banks, and caused an injury to the neighbourhood estimated at £50,000; the Usk, by tin, gas, and iron works, vitriol, paper mills, tan and skin yards, and a creosote manufactory; and the Exe, by gas, sewerage, paper mills, &c. The inspector (the late Mr. W. J. Ffennell), remarks, page 22:—
"The question of a remedy for pollutions is a very large one."
"In the 1st Report of the Royal Commission on the Sewage of Towns, 1858, allusion is made to the pollution of rivers in the following terms, p. 11:—
"'Other evils of a less public, but still important nature are caused by the pollution of watercourses by town sewage. Even in the absence of large towns below the outfalls, many small villages, &c., are situated on the banks of streams. When such streams are largely polluted by sewage, the comfort and health of the inhabitants are interfered with, and the value of their properties greatly deteriorated.
"'The destruction of fish is another and very important consequence of the conditions described.
"'The salmon fisheries of Scotland and Ireland not only represent a large annual value, but they form the occupations and livelihood of a very considerable population. Apprehensions are already entertained of serious injury by the daily increasing quantity of sewage thrown into the rivers. Efforts have been made with a view of arresting the evil; and that it can be arrested by means within our reach, is shown in the case of Leicester."
Mr. Ffennell then quotes from the same Report the conclusion arrived at by the Sewage Commissioners (before stated at page 7), and here repeated, viz.:—
"That the increasing pollution of the rivers and streams of the country is an evil of national importance which urgently demands the application of remedial measures; that the discharge of sewage and noxious refuse into them is a source of nuisance and danger to health; that it acts injuriously not only in the locality where it occurs, but also on the populations through which the polluted rivers flow; that it poisons the water which, in many cases, forms the sole supply of the population for all purposes, including drinking; and that it destroys the fish."
Recommendation of Committee of the House of Commons, on Sewage of Towns. In 1864 a Committee of the House of Commons recommended—
"That the important object of completely freeing the entire basins of rivers from pollution, should be rendered possible by general legislative enactment."
And the same Committee reported—
"In favour of the practicability of utilizing sewage by applying the same in the cultivation of the soil."
See Lord R. Montagu's Speech, 8th March, 1865, on the "River Waters Protection" Bill.—Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. 177, p. 1310. In this year, and early in 1865, many towns memorialized the Government to carry into effect the Committee's recommendations, among others Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, Preston, Coventry, Derby, Wolverhampton, Bath, Huddersfield, York, Stockport, Cheltenham, and Oxford. The memorials, &c. (or extracts from them) of Sheffield, Nottingham, of the Rotherham and Kimberworth Board of Health, and of Birmingham and York, are as follow:—
12 Oct. 1864.
Memorial of Borough of Sheffield, [Parl. Paper, 6 March, 1865, page 5, No. 105,] to the Home Secretary. "Memorial of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of Sheffield in Council assembled.
"That the practice of discharging sewerage and other foul matters into streams and rivers is productive of great injury to the health of the people, in consequence of the pollution of the water.
"That this sewerage may be converted into a permanent and increasing source of agricultural fertility by being conducted upon the land.
"That although it is a nuisance at common law to discharge any sewerage into rivers, yet the law is inoperative from various causes.
"That a Committee of the Honourable the House of Commons inquired into this subject during the last Session of Parliament, and recommended in their report thereon 'that the important object of completely freeing the entire basins of rivers from pollution should be rendered possible by general legislative enactment.'
"That your memorialists fully concur in this recommendation, and see no reason why the penalty for discharging sewerage into rivers should not be made as simple and effective in application as the law now makes the penalty for injuries done to highways.
"Your memorialists therefore pray that you will introduce a Bill in the next Session of Parliament to carry out the recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee herein rehearsed, and effectually prohibit sewerage and any foul and offensive matter from being discharged into streams and rivers.
"All which is respectfully submitted.
8 Dec., 1864.
Resolution passed at a Meeting of the Sanitary Committee and other Public Bodies of "Nottingham," forwarded to Home Secretary. [Parl. Paper, 105, pp. 3 & 4. 6th March, 1865.] At a meeting of the Sanitary Committee and other Public Bodies of Nottingham, it was (inter alia) resolved:
"That in the opinion of this meeting the time has arrived when provision should be made by the Legislature for enabling, and (when needful) requiring, the sewage of towns and villages to be applied for the benefit of adjacent districts of and, instead of polluting the waters of rivers and brooks, and also for enforcing, as far as practicable, that the noxious refuse arising from trade works be purified before it enters any stream of water, and the more solid parts of such refuse be separated and retained on the land."
"That the powers of the 'Public Health Act' and 'Local Government Act' do not completely meet the wants of the case, and they give no powers to restrain the pollution of streams, and cannot give that combined action over an extended area or watershed embracing several parishes, which is essential for providing an effectual remedy.
"That the neighbourhood of Nottingham shows the mischief resulting from the present state of things.
"That impure liquid matter from the manufactures and population of Old Lenton, near Nottingham, flows into the river Trent, about a mile and a half above the point at which a large part of the water supply of Nottingham is now drawn from that river.
"That the River Leen, which passes through this town, and which was about 40 years ago a pure stream, and afforded the principal supply of water to the town for all purposes, is now foul and offensive by reason of its conveying part of the sewage of Nottingham, and the wholethe sewers of an extensive and populous higher district over which the authorities of Nottingham have no control, and flows with the rest of the sewage of Nottingham, into the parish of Sneinton, and thence into the River Trent."
1864. Memorial of the Rotherham and Kimberworth Board of Health to the Home Secretary. [Parl. Paper 105, page 4, 6 Mar. 1865.]
Excessive mortality of Rotherham. Memorial of the Rotherham and Kimberworth Board of Health to the Home Secretary:—
"That this Board have been under deep concern on it appearing from the returns made by their officer of health from time to time, that the mortality of part of the district of the Rotherham and Kimberworth Local Board of Health (the town of Rotherham) has been for some time greatly in excess of the regular rates of mortality, having, for instance, in the two quarters ending June 30, been at the rate of forty in the 1,000!!
Epidemics there in 1862 and 1863. "That the town has on several occasions been subject to fatal epidemics, and in the years 1862 and 1863, a medical officer from the Health Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State visited Rotherham to inquire into the state of its health, and especially with reference to the outbreak of typhoid fever.
"That your memorialists believe the natural situation and state of Rotherham to be such as will not account for the sickness and death which have prevailed; but they are of opinion that being situate on the River Don, Memorialists believe cause thereof the sewage brought down in river from Sheffield which flows from Sheffield, and brings down an immense quantity of sewerage which falls into it at Sheffield, and is deposited in the bed of the river near Rotherham, polluting the stream and poisoning the air, is mainly the cause of the sickness and mortality which have prevailed, and which, to the belief of your memorialists, cannot be accounted for in any other way.
"Your memorialists therefore pray that you will introduce a Bill next Session of Parliament, to carry out the recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee, that sewerage may be effectually prohibited from being discharged into rivers and streams.
(Signed) "J. M. Habershon,
"Chairman of the Local Board."
From Memorial of the Mayor, Aldermen, &c., of Birmingham:—
Memorial of the Mayor, Aldermen, &c., of Birmingham to the Home Secretary. [Parl. Paper, 6th March, 1865, No. 105, page 2.]
That your memorialists have been advised by the most eminent chemists and engineers on their difficulties in relation to sewage, and they have expended large sums of money and exhausted all their efforts in vain attempts to obviate the evils arising from it; and they are now convinced beyond a remaining doubt, that the time has arrived for the introduction, by Her Majesty's Government, of a practical and comprehensive measure, by means of which your memorialists may be enabled to carry the whole of their sewage, both liquid and solid, upon some adjacent lands, so that it may be applied, in accordance with natural laws, in adding to the fertility of the soil.
Your memorialists hardly think it necessary to point out to Her Majesty's Government the extreme importance of preserving the purity of the rivers and streams of this kingdom; but they would respectfully suggest that the great and increasing number of towns and populous places exercising the drainage powers of the 'Local Government Act,' and other Acts of Parliament, in all parts of the kingdom, will result in the intersection of the Island in all directions with a network of open and noxious sewers instead of the former pure and wholesome streams, unless the evils arising from the present method of disposing of sewage are immediately arrested.
That your memorialists would also respectfully draw your attention to the increasing difficulty now experienced in obtaining a supply of water for large populations from a pure and wholesome source; because the rivers and streams are all becoming more and morewith the pollution of sewage. That your memorialists are surrounded by the very large populations inhabiting the manufacturing districts of South Staffordshire and East Worcestershire, immediately adjoining the borough boundaries, being only separated from them by small streams, some of which, by means of the sewage of such populations, have been long since converted into open sewers of the worst description, and others are rapidly becoming in a similar condition.
"Wherefore your memorialists urgently submit that it is absolutely necessary that a Bill should be forthwith prepared under the direction of Her Majesty's Government, and submitted to Parliament early in the ensuing Session, for enabling your memorialists, and other local authorities similarly situated, to accomplish the very important objects herein set forth.
"Given under the corporate common seal of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the Borough of Birmingham, the day of , 1864."
2 Jan., 1865. Memorial of the City of York to the Home Secretary. [Parl. Paper, 105, pp. 5&6 6 Mar. 1865.]
"The Memorial of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of the City of York, the Local Board of Health of York and for the same City,
"That your memorialists regard the present mode of disposing of the sewage of cities and towns as highly unsatisfactory, whether as regards the public health or the economy of natural products applicable to the fertilization of the soil.
"That the pollution of the rivers and streams of the country by the discharge therein of the sewage of adjacent towns is productive of great and increasing evils, by rendering the waters of such rivers and streams unfit for human consumption, and converting what is often the sole water-supply of a town into the fruitful source of disease and death.
Session 1864. "That a Committee of the House of Commons reported in the last Session of Parliament in favour of the practicability of utilizing such sewage by applying the same in the cultivation of the soil.
"Your memorialists therefore respectfully request that Her Majesty's Government will be pleased to introduce such a measure in the next Session of Parliament.
"Given under our Common Seal, at the Guildhall of and in the said City, this 2nd day of January, 1865.
"(Signed) Edwin Wade, Mayor."
January 1865. Report of the Special Commissioners on Salmon Fisheries (Ireland). In January, 1865, the Special Commissioners on the Irish Salmon Fisheries, in their report for the year 1864, at page 17, mention that "the Liffey is fearfully polluted by sewage, which at certain place caused instant death to the fish. Also, that "the Fisheries were largely injured by the water used in steeping flax, the manufacture of which was greatly extending in Ireland."
The 3rd and final Report of the Commissioners on the sewage of towns, 1865, says:— 30 Mar. 1865. Third Report of the Commissioners on the Sewage of Towns to the Lords of the Treasury.
"As the result of our labours extending over eight years we have confidence in submitting to your Lordships the following conclusion:—
That the right way to dispose of town sewage is to apply it continuously to land, and it is only by such application that the pollution of rivers can he avoided. We further beg leave to express that in our judgment the following two principles are established for legislative application:—
- " ' 1st. That wherever rivers are polluted by a discharge of town sewage into them the towns may reasonably be required to desist from further causing that public nuisance.
- " ' 2nd. That where town populations are injured or endangered in health by a retention of cesspool matter, the same may reasonably be required to provide a system of sewers for its removal.'
"And should the law be found insufficient to enable towns to take land for sewage application, it would in our opinion be expedient that the Legislature should give them powers for that purpose."
To this Third Report of the Sewage Commissioners is appended a most elaborate report made in 1864 by Dr. Stevenson Macadam, F.R.S.E., &c., &c., on the hideous contamination of the Water of Leith by the sewage of Edinburgh and Leith, in which it is stated that:—
Page 6. App. 5. "Into this small stream is discharged the sewage of 70,000 of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, and upwards of 30,000 of the people of Leith, and the result has been that the Water of Leith has become a foul polluted stream, conveying matter of the most disgusting and abominable character, and evolving fetid emanations into the surrounding atmosphere.
Page 8. "That the inhabitants of the districts bordering on the water complained bitterly of the offensive odours from the water, and which gave rise to nausea and sickness, "and compelled them to keep their doors and windows shut.
"That Professor Simpson (now Sir James Simpson, Bart., M.D.), showed from the mortality in the streets bordering on the river, as compared with that away from its banks, that there was a greater death rate in the immediate neighbourhood of the Water of Leith than at a short distance therefrom.
"Thus taking a similar class of houses in the Edinburgh district, and judging by the mortality among children under five years of age. Professor Simpson found that in the streets away from the influence of the foul water the mortality was in the proportion of 100, while in the streets near the Water of Leith the mortality was as high as 160!! In the Leith district also the death rate was greater, as in the streets at some distance from the harbour the mortality was in the proportion of 100, with a death rate among children under five years old of 1 in 12, while in the same class of streets near the river and harbour the mortality was 141, and the death rate among children 1 in 7!!
"That these statistics are positive evidence of the effects of the foul state of the Water of Leith conveying the sewage of Edinburgh and Leith, and the results are supported by the concurrent testimony of many persons who speak to the nausea and sickness brought on by the gases and vapours evolved from the water, and to the general ill health connected therewith.
Page 24. As regards the atmosphere near the Water of Leith.
"The state of the atmosphere was not only judged of by the test of the nose but special experiments were made."
"Thirty-one samples of air were collected at various parts on different occasions. On the 7th April nine samples were tested, and whilst the degrees of purity of the air at three stations in Edinburgh away from the influence of the Water of Leith were respectively (100 being absolute purity) 85, 70, and 67, and the air at the Water of Leith at Coltbridge before being mingled with sewage was 75, the atmosphere in the immediate vicinity of the sewers and of the Water of Leith conveying sewage had its degree of purity reduced to 63, 58, 55, and 55, and in one instance, as below the dam under the Water of Leith village, the 100 of standard colour was totally destroyed, a second 100 was similarly bleached, and of a third 100 only 20 remained."
On the 9th of April 16 samples of air were examined.Page 26.
"Three samples taken in Edinburgh in places away from the Water of Leith, and one sample collected in Leith at a distance from the polluted stream, gave respectively the degrees of purity 80, 75, 80, and 80, and one sample taken from the harbour at the Victoria Dockhead gave 70, while the air collected under the immediate influence of the Water of Leith conveying the sewage of Edinburgh and Leith gave respectively 60, 60, 50, 60, 60, 55, 55, 55, 60, 50, and 55.
"On the 14th April six samples of air were collected and examined, when it was found that over the Water of Leith before mixture with sewage the degree of purity was 80, while over the sewers and the Water of Leith conveying sewage the degrees of purity were 68, 66, 70, 64, and 70.
Page 27 "In the whole course of the Water of Leith, from Coltbridge downwards, not a single fish could be seen."
The Water of Leith at Edinburgh.
Page 30. "The condition of the Thames at London is much less foul than the water of Leith as it traverses Edinburgh.
Page 33 "It will thus be observed that the Water of Leith as it leaves Edinburgh contains fully ten times the quantity of organic matter which is found in the Thames at London Bridge, and necessarily the offensiveness of the water must be correspondingly greater."
30th March 1865.
Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries Fourth Report. Extract from Mr. FFfennell's 4th Report, 1865, as regards the pollution of Streams.
Page 14 of Report.—"Public attention is now so earnestly directed to this question, and public opinion so strong in regard to the necessity of mitigating the evil complained of, that it may not be in vain to hope that some comprehensive measure may ere long be taken to abate a nuisance so excessive in its baneful effects, in many ways as to alarm the minds of reflecting persons who are thoughtful and watchful of the sanitary condition of the people, and to create apprehension that it is insidiously in a less apparent manner generating disease in many districts, and imperilling the general health of the inhabitants of the country."
Adverting, page 28, to the cases of the Rhiedol, Ystwith, and Dovey, and observing that "no change for the better had been made in the condition of these rivers," polluted enormously by lead mines (the two first "completely poisoned,") Mr. Ffenncll remarks, with reference to the Dovey, so seriously injured by the Dylifa lead mine, and the remark equally applies, he says, to copper mines, that—
"The managers of the Devon Great Consols mine have shewn that the largest and richest mine in the kingdom can be worked without damage to the Fisheries, and the system pursued at that mine should be universally carried out."
At pages 29 and 30 Mr. Ffennell notices some naptha and oil works as very destructive to the fish, the former near Gloucester, which were said to have "poisoned the salmon last summer in great numbers, and the latter below Chester, which so polluted the Dee, that it was said its water "could not be used for washing," it being added, that scores upon scores of salmon had been found dead near the works, and that the water appeared at times blackened for miles.
At Page 27 of Report, Mr. Eden, the other Inspector, says:—"It cannot be too often shown that in most instances the mischief occasioned by the pollution of rivers is capable of easy remedy, and in all of great palliation;" adding, at
Page 40 of Report:—"On the subject of pollution, I have not suggested any amendment (Mr. Eden refers to certain amendments suggested by him in the English Salmon Fisheries Act of 1861). It is a question of vital importance, not only to the Fisheries, but to the health and enjoyment of the whole population of the country, and appears to me to require graver consideration and more radical treatment than it can receive by the insertion and discussion of a clause in a Fishery Bill." 20th March, 1866.
1st Report of the Royal Commission on the Pollution of Rivers, (the Thames). The Commissioners on the pollution of rivers in their 1st Report, 1866 (the Thames), state:—
"That throughout the whole course of the river from Cricklade to the point where the Metropolitan sewage commences, fouling of the water by sewage from cities, towns, villages, and single houses, generally prevails. The refuse from paper mills, tanneries, &c., passes into the stream. Through its whole course to where the Metropolitan sewage begins the Thames fouled by Sewage, &c. There is no form of scavenging practised for the surface water of the Thames, but carcases of animals float down the stream until wasted by corruption. The river water receives unchecked the whole of the pollution, solid and fluid, of the district; and this same water, after it has been so polluted, is abstracted, sand-filtered, and pumped into the Metropolis for domestic uses."
Towns of the Upper Thames polluting the river by sewage. Having described in much detail, pages 15 to 17, the enormous pollution of the Upper Thames by the sewage of Oxford, Reading, Windsor, Eton, Richmond, and Kingston, &c., &c., the report proceeds, page 17, thus:—
Sewage of hundreds of thousands of persons finds its way into the water whence London draws its supply. "The river basin at Hampton (the pumping station of the water companies) comprises an area of about 3,676 square miles, and a population in 1861 of nearly 900,000 persons. After a full allowance for retention in cesspools, and for villages, &c., removed from the banks of the river and its tributaries, there is no doubt that the number of persons, whose sewage daily finds its way into the water from which London draws its supply, amounts to hundreds of thousands, and this number is destined greatly to increase by the growth of population, and by the development of the sewerage system now only in very partial operation."
Sir B. Brodie's evidence that the London drinker may drink some remnant of the filth of Oxford. Page 18.—Sir B. Brodie's evidence is conclusive, that there is no sufficient guarantee for its (the Thames water) arriving at Hampton purged of injurious taint. The London drinker of it may be drinking with it some remnant of the filth of Oxford.
"It is the general opinion of medical men, that what causes the presence of organic matter in water to be poisonous, is not its quantity but quality, and this quality cannot as yet be detected by microscopic or chemical analysis, and is indeed known only by its occasionally noxious effects. The result seems to be, that as a water supply the Thames, polluted with the sewage of the inhabitants of the river Basin, is open in kind, if not in degree, to the same objections as well-water infiltrated by liquid from an adjoining cesspool; well-water which is so tainted beyond all doubt is liable to become poisonous. Only safe course is to keep sewage out of the water. Considering the enormous magnitude of the interests at stake in this question of the Metropolitan water supply (the healths of many hundreds of thousands of persons), it seems impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the only safe course is to keep sewage out of the river. Each town needs to be protected from the abuses of towns above it, and to be prevented from committing abuse towards towns below.
"The question of sewage pollution of a river is an indivisible one for the whole River Basin. Attempts to keep the main stream pure will be vain so long as tributaries are allowed to remain foul."
Right way to dispose of sewage is to apply it to land. On the subject of disposing of town sewage, the Commissioners state that they fully concur with the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the best mode of distributing the sewage of towns, and applying it to beneficial and profitable uses, who, in their final report delivered in March, 1865, gave it as their unanimous opinion, after an investigation extending over eight years, that "the right way to dispose of town sewage is to apply it continuously to land, and that it is only by such application that the pollution of rivers can be avoided;" and they add, And that wherever that application was in operation it was unattended by injury to public health. that such application of town sewage to land, wherever that system is in operation, as at Croydon, Northwood, Worthing, Carlisle, and Edinburgh, &c., was unattended tended by any injury to the public health.
And after various recommendations which the Commissioners humbly submit to Her Majesty respecting the government and conservancy of the river, they recommend—
Recommend that no sewage unless purified be cast into the Thames under penalties. "That after the lapse of a period to be allowed for the alteration of existing arrangements, it be made unlawful for any sewage, unless the same has been passed over land, so as to become purified, or for any injurious refuse from paper mills, tanneries, and other works, to be cast into the Thames between Cricklade and the commencement of the Metropolitan sewerage system, and that any person offending in this respect be made liable to penalties to be recovered summarily."
2 May, 1866. 5th Annual Report of Inspector of Salmon Fisheries. On the 2nd May, 1866, Mr. Ffennell, the Inspector of Salmon Fisheries, presented his fifth annual report report for England and Wales.
On the subject of pollution by collieries and paper mills. Mr. Ffennell, at page 15, says:—
"I do not think I can better conclude my report than by giving an extract from the proceedings of the Wear Angling Association."
The extract, which conclusively shows that owners of collieries and paper mills can carry on their works without polluting the stream, is then appended. A portion of it, relating to collieries, is as follows:—
"The Earl of Durham had nobly led the way in reform by not only constructing subsiding ponds at all his collieries, but had in addition made staples or wells, into which the partially purified water was poured, thence pumped back again to the coal-washing apparatus, and so used over and over again ad infinitum. By this simple plan being adopted, it became unnecessary to return a drop of foul water to the river or its tributaries."
After stating that the example of Lord Durham had been or was about to be cordially adopted by Lord Vane and other large colliery owners, the extract says, with respect to paper mills:—
"Much complaint having been made as to the foul state of the Browney, arising from the flow of chemicals into the stream, we applied for information to Mr. Trotter Cranstown, of Churnside, who has large paper works on the Whitadder, in Berwickshire. His reply was as follows: In reply to yours of the 20th instant, wishing for information as to the steps we have adopted to purify the waste ley from our paper manufactory, we made a large pond, comprising nearly an acre of ground, which, being all sand and gravel 'below, formed a natural filter. It has proved thoroughly successful in practice, as all the objectionable ingredients which polluted the river are kept back. We also erected a large iron tank, whence all the strong ley is pumped up and re-used, so as to form an actual saving.'"
The extract concludes thus:—
"Experience has also satisfed us, that with trifling exceptions, the collieries and gasworks, paper mills and manufactories, can he carried forward equally well without fouling our once pellucid streams. In nearly every case it is but the outlay of a little extra capital, and when great concerns are planted near, and have the use-of our streams for their commercial purposes, surely it is not asking too much that the money advanced to plant a business should include the fractional sum necessary to prevent the owners of that concern from wilfully and unnecessarily destroying the property and rights of their neighbours."
August, 1866. Registrar General's weekly return. In the supplement to the Registrar General's weekly return for August 6th, 1866, appear the following remarks on the water supply of the east districts of London, taken from Professor Frankland's Report:—
"The cause of the epidemic of Cholera consists, as is well known, of a zymotic matter in various degrees of activity, all over the London area, affecting the people in various ways through air, contact, and water. Hitherto in all great outbreaks here, the cholerine which this stuff may be called, has been distributed chiefly through water.
"It is the amount of organic matter contained in this water which is of special importance in connection with the outbreak of Cholera.
1866. Regr. Genl.'s Report of the public health. From the Registrar General's Report on the public health, for the year 1866,
"Dr. Farr states that there is no apparent decline in the rate of deaths from fever He considers it extremely probable that typhoid fever is sustained by the increasing contamination of the waters."
6 May, 1867. 2nd Report of the Commissioners on the Pollution of Rivers. (The Lea.) On the 6th May, 1867, the Commissioners on the Pollution of Rivers presented their 2nd Report which refers to the Lea.
It shows (pages 11 to 13) that the Lea, from which water for the domestic use of a large portion of London is taken, is polluted from Luton (close to its source) to West Ham, near Blackwall (where its mouth is), by all the towns and places on it, by the sewage of Luton, numbering 20,000 inhabitants and upwards, and by its manufacturing refuse (from the preparation of straw plait), composed of large quantities of metallic salts, dye stuffs, brimstone, &c., and in some cases poisonous materials, by the sewage of Hatfield, which, though not discharged directly into the river, the Commissioners say finds its way there, by the sewage of Whitwell and Welwyn, where it is also polluted by arsenic which comes from the wool of sheep when they are washed, and which has been retained in their wool since the previous "dipping," in which process arsenic is used; by the sewage of Hertford, which, though passing into the river in a mitigated form, is a constant source of complaint to Ware, situate below; by the sewage of Ware itself; and by the sewage respectively of Bishopstortford (via a tributary of the Lea), Hoddesdon, Broxbourne, Cheshunt, Waltham Abbey, Waltham Cross, and Enfield-Highway'. All the foregoing pollution taking place above the intake of the East London Water Company. Below the intake, the report states, the Lea receives the sewage (unmitigated by any process whatever) of Enfield, Edmonton, Hornsey, Chipping Barnet, East Barnet, and Hadley, and also of Leyton, Leytonstone, Walthamstow, and West Ham, whose population (West Ham) alone at the last census was 22,337. The report adds that this pollution of sewage was much on the increase, that the river at Old Ford was rendered very PESIFORUS during hot weather by impurities from chemical and other works, and that the district bordering on the tidal portion of the Lea has become a nuisance district, the seat of trades expelled from the better parts of the metropolis.
The Commissioners, after condemning the East London Water Company for having drawn "unfiltered water for domestic consumption" during July and August, 1866, from the Old Ford reservoir, to which fact had been attributed the outbreak (or great aggravation of the outbreak) of cholera in the East of London of that year, state (p. 26) as one of the conclusions they had come to—
"That it is expedient that more stringent measures be adopted to protect from pollution that portion of the Metropolitan water supply which is derived from the Lea."
And, finally, the Commissioners as in the case of the Upper Thames recommended (among other recommendations)—
"That after the lapse of a period to be allowed for alteration of existing arrangements it be made unlawful for any sewage, unless the same has been passed over land so as to become purified, or for any injurious refuse from manufactures or agriculture to be cast into the river Lea, or into any of its tributaries, and that persons offending in this respect be made liable to penalties to be recovered summarily."
15 July, 1867. 6th Annual Report of Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries, (England and Wales). In July, 1867, the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries (Mr. Frank Buckland and Mr. Spencer Walpole) presented their 6th Annual Report for England and Wales.
Mr. Frank Buckland, after stating that his predecessor (the late Mr. Ffennell) had issued a series of questions to the Boards of Conservators of rivers, of which question No. 12 related to "pollutions" gives in an Appendix at pages 38 to 61 the answers received by the Inspectors to that question.
From these answers it appears that of 20 rivers named in the Inspector's 3rd Report, 1864, (page 14, ante) as more or less polluted, 16 continued to be polluted at fully the same degree, (especially the v and its tributary the Twymin by the Dyliffa mine and by Sir John Conroy's), while the names of about 16 additional rivers are given as suffering from lead mines and numerous forms of pollution, which in many instances the answers say kill vast quantities of fish, as in the cases of the Allyn (tributary of the Dee), "where for 14 miles every fish in Dec, 1866, was destroyed by petroleum works," the Usk, of which it is remarked, it is so polluted that "unless some legislative measure stop the evil the objects of the Salmon Fishery Acts and the labours of the Conservators will he thrown away," the Exe, where paper mills "kill bushels of fish;" the Trent, where (at Burton) for several years past, "fish have been poisoned by tons;" the Aire, which is "so surcharged with immense quantities of coal dust and dye, that hundreds of salmon are choked and blind-folded by the poisonous salt;" and the Wear, of which the answer says, "it is dreadfully polluted by lead mines, collieries, iron, gas, and chemical works, paper mills, sewerage, and every abomination a thickly populated district can put into it."
This Report gives therefore a total of at least 32 rivers thus poisoned and polluted, very many of them horribly.
As to the pollutions by lead mines Mr. Buckland at page 4, says, "the measures taken to obviate this terrible evil have been but slight," he points however to the answer of the Tamar, page 54, where it is stated that—
"The Devon Great Consols Mine Company (whose good example was noticed in Mr. Ffennell's 4th Report, page 24, ante), have made catch pits, &c., and are saving the arsenic with profit to themselves. No other mining company has used any effectual measures."
And speaking of polluted water generally, Mr. Buckland remarks, page 5:—
"Impure and polluted water will encourage disease, especially cholera: pure water will disarm disease of its powers, and at the same time be available for growing excellent human food."
Mr. Walpole the other Inspector, in his separate Report of the same date observes, page 5:—
"It would be impossible for me to omit all notice of that bane of Salmon rivers pollutions—a bane which unhappily there is but a very doubtful remedy against under the existing laws;" adding, "but though I am aware the law is defective, and though I hope the day may shortly come when it may be made illegal to put any pollution into a running stream, I abstain from recommending any alteration in the Salmon Laws in this respect as a question of such importance should not be confined to the minor consideration, important though it be, of the cultivation of our Salmon rivers."
15 Aug. 1867. 3rd Report of the Commissioners on the Pollution of Rivers.(The Aire and Calder.) On the 15th August, 1867, the Royal Commissioners on the pollution of rivers made their Report on the Rivers Aire and Calder. At pages 10 and 11 the report, says:
"The Aire and Calder, throughout their whole course, are abused, obstructed, and polluted (to an extent scarcely conceivable by other than eye-witnesses) from Skipton on the Aire, and from Todmorden on the Calder, to Castleford," where they unite.
"Our inspection was corroborated by uncontested and overwhelming evidence."
"The rivers Aire and Calder and their tributaries are abused by passing into them hundreds of thousands of tons per annum of ashes, clay, and cinders from steam-boiler furnaces, ironworks, and domestic fires; by their being made the receptacle, to a vast extent, of broken pottery and worn-out utensils of metal, refuse from brickyards, &c., earth, stone, &c., from quarries and excavations, road scrapings, street sweepings, &c.; by spent dye-woods and other solids used in the treatment of worsteds and woollens; by hundreds of carcases of dogs, cats, pigs, &c., which are allowed to float on the surface of the streams oron their banks; and by the flowing in, to the amount of very many millions of gallons per day, of water, poisoned, corrupted, and clogged by refuse from mines, chemical works, dyeing, scouring, and fulling worsted and woollen stuffs, skin-cleaning and tanning, slaughter-house garbage, and the sewage of towns and houses."
"Many streams where, by reason of their foulness, no form of life can at present be found, persons now living recollect abounding in fish."
One enormous penalty paid for this abuse of the rivers is flooding, consequent on the raising of the rivers' beds, and at page 12 the Commissioners exemplify this as follows: —
"That on the 15th of November, 1866, rain commenced and continued for several days, flooding the valleys of the Aire and Calder most destructively from the mountains to the sea. In several instances persons were washed away and drowned. It is not possible to form an estimate of the money value of the damage caused to the manufacturers, landowners, and others in the West Riding.
"The total loss was locally estimated at from half a million to a million sterling.
"The lesser sum would have been sufficient to put the rivers in a condition to render such destruction of life and property impossible."
After stating at page 13 that the amount of solids taken into the streams from sewers is in the aggregate enormous, and that at Leeds the entire volume of sewage of eight to ten million gallons per day passes into the Aire, as also that of Bradford, Keighley, and Skipton, and that the Calder receives all the sewage of Todmorden, Halifax, Huddersfield, Dewesbury, Wakefield, and of smaller towns, &c., &c., the Commissioners then declare—
"That the present gross abuse of the rivers we inspected may he in a great measure prevented, and in such manner and at such cost as to be beneficial to all parties."
And speaking of the woollen manufacture, they remark:
"In the two facts—first that in one year (1864) 384,000,000 pounds of wool were worked up into various tissues in Great Britain; and secondly, that every pound of this wool has to undergo operations necessitating the use of large volumes of water, and rendering that water foul and offensive, we have the history of all rivers on which that trade is located, and notably of the Aire and Calder."
And they add—
"That with very few exceptions the streams of the West Riding run with a liquid more resembling ink than water."
Referring to the tanneries at Leeds, the report states (page 35)—
"That as many as 2,750,000 hides were annually converted into leather in Leeds and its neighbourhood."
And at page 36, speaking of the pollution of the river by tanning refuse, the Commissioners say—
"We believe that the pollution of the river, which is undoubtedly very considerable from tanning refuse, may be prevented without injury to this very important industry" (the leather trade).
They then give a detailed description of the condition of each town visited by them on the Aire and Calder. Of Skipton they say (page 37):—
"Its sewage and refuse of its dye-works, slaughterhouses, tan-works, paper-mills, and factories, all go into the river." Of Keighley: "That the sewage is the cause of great nuisance, and that the workmen at the sick." Also "that soap-suds flow into the river, which ferment and give off large volumes of foul gases, and that local disease is imputed to this form of pollution."have frequently to leave the mills
And much the same story is told by them of Bingley, all its filth and refuse going into Harden Beck and into the Aire.
Of Bradford, with a population in 1861 of 48,646, they say:—
"The whole of the sewage of Bradford and of the populous district above the town flows into the Beck, producing an indescribable state of pollution. At the time of our inquiry Bradford Beck was the source of supply to the Bradford Canal, the fluid of which became so corrupt in summer that large volumes of inflammable gases were given off." And "though," the Commissioners add, "it has been considered an impossible feat to set the Thames on fire, it was found practicable to set the Bradford Canal on fire, as this at times formed the amusement of boys in the neighbourhood, the flames rising six feet high, and running along the surface of the water for many yards, like a will-o'-the-wisp, and canal boats have been so enveloped in flames as to frighten persons on board."
Proceeding (page 39) to describe the condition of the Aire at Leeds and the streams communicating with it there, the Report says:
"The entire volume of the sewage of Leeds, solids and fluids (from 7,000,000 to 12,000,000 gallons per day), is turned into the Aire, creating a great nuisance."
"The whole of the becks flowing through the town are fouled with waste refuse from dye-works, tanneries, and the various other manufactures, from their sources beyond the municipal boundaries to the Aire, which river is also polluted along both margins, carcases of dead animals float down until intercepted by shoals, where they remain to become putrid. As the population of Leeds has increased and manufactures have been extended, the local death rate has risen until the town is ranked by the Registrar-General amongst the most unhealthy of the kingdom. The death rate from 1857 to 1860 was 28 per 1,000, and from 1860 to 1864 was 29·5 per 1,000."
The Commissioners next describe, at pages 40 to 43, the condition of the River Calder as affected by the various towns on it or its tributary streams, stating that all such towns as Todmorden, Halifax, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, and Wakefield, with an aggregate population of nearly 250,000, discharge their sewage and the filth from their various manufactures into the Calder, Halifax discharging the same by the Hebble, and Huddersfield by the Colne, the pollution of the river caused by Wakefield being much increased by a large weekly cattle and sheep market which is held there, and where as many as 1,000 horned cattle and 13,000 sheep have been sold in one day. "In dry weather," the Commissioners mention, "the banks of the river are covered with dark thick slime, and the entire volume of water is stained with dye-refuse; and from a river thus polluted, Wakefield," the Commissioners add (at page 46), "draws three-fourths of its water supply." And at the same page and page 47 they declare "that there is no excuse for the discharge of any sewage or ochrey matter into running streams and rivers, and that the pollutions from soap-suds, dyeing, and other processes may he prevented or greatly alleviated," the Commissioners concluding their detailed account of the pollution of the river by these towns as follows: —
"The injury inflicted by the river pollution of these and other towns to the estates of many riparian owners is very great; streams which in the memory of men now living were comparatively pure and well stocked with fish are now black and stinking. The land through which such polluted streams flow is ruined for residential purposes, and is injured and reduced in value. Even for mill purposes the water is so bad as to be considered unfit for manufacturing uses, and other sites are selected, where water can be obtained from canals or by sinking wells. In many instances cattle will not drink the local river water, and farms are depreciated in consequence. Large country houses, which formerly, with their river frontage, rights of fishing, and ornamental gardens, were valued as residences, have been abandoned, or are let merely at farming rents. The cattle plague prevailed to a great extent in the Thorpe Hall meadows below Leeds, and on lands bordering foul rivers in other districts. This fatal disease was considered by the tenants and proprietors to have been aggravated by the foul state of the water and by the tainted atmosphere, caused by river pollutions."
"In some cases the manufacture and dyeing of finer sorts of goods has necessarily been abandoned, and in other cases extension of manufacture is rendered impossible, because there is no additional clean water to be obtained in the district."
And at page 51 the Commissioners point out that
"One great argument for the purification of the rivers up to an available point should not be passed over in closing the consideration of this question. Manufacturers require clean rather than pure water. They cannot get on with water fouled by solid suspended matter."
Having shewn (pages 51 to 53) that the existing laws are practically, for one reason or another, quite insufficient to correct the dreadful evil of the pollution of streams. the Commissioners state (at pages 53 and 55) as their conclusions—
"That in order to prevent the pollution and legally control the management of rivers, their basins or watersheds must be placed under supervision, irrespective of any arbitrary divisions of county, parish, township, parliamentary, municipal, or Local Government Act boundaries, or indeed of any artificially established division,"
"That the question of profit and loss in abating nuisances and in preventing the pollution of the atmosphere, running waters, or sea shore, by town and house sewage, or by working mines and carrying on trades and manufactures, ought not to be too rigidly taken into account,"
"That the prohibition against the casting in of solids may at once be general without any exception."
"That a stronger power than has hitherto been available must be brought to bear if the present abuse and pollution of streams is to be arrested, and Government supervision and inspection must enforce the action of local authorities."
"That our experience of the weakness inherent in unaided and uncontrolled local authorities convinces us that a central board appointed by a State department is necessary to the efficient protection of running waters."
From the Medical Times and Gazette of 28th September and 23rd November, 1867, with extracts from Mr. Simon's Annual Report to the Privy Council on the Public Health, for 1867:—
"A reduction of typhoid fever is undoubtedly shown coincident with sanitary improvements. 'Though not with absolute constancy, drying of the soil of a town and reduction in the crowding of houses have been followed by reduction of fever. Much more important appears to be the substitution of an ample supply of good water for a scanty and impure supply.'"
Mr. Simon insists with the utmost force upon the absolute relation of cholera in England to faults of drainage and water supply:—
"It cannot be too distinctly understood," he says, that the diffusion of cholera among us depends entirely upon the numberless filthy facilities which are let exist, and specially in our larger towns, for the fouling of earth and air and water, and thus secondarily for the infection of man, with whatever contagium may be contained in the miscellaneous outflowings of the population.""Medical Times and Gazette." of 23rd Nov., 1867, on Report of Dr. Buchanan, of the Medical Department of the Privy Council, on the Fever at Guildford in Sept. 1867.
"Dr. Buchanan's Report on Typhoid Fever at Guildford, in Sept. 1867.
"There have occurred some local outbursts of fever which, as especially the outbreak at Guildford, have preached in terrible language, in the startling tones of the angel of death, the frightful and inevitable dangers of an impure water supply, enforcing on even the most careless and ignorant the paramount necessity of unwearying and incessant vigilance against the possibility of the water supply being, in any part of its course, tainted by sewage.
"Typhoid fever, it seems, is by no means uncommon in and about Guildford, and before the particular outbreak several sporadic cases had occurred. But in the last three days of August cases of typhoid were observed in the more elevated and healthiest parts of the town. On September 3 and 4, 'a surprisingly large number of people sent for medical assistance; in the first ten days of September about 150 cases altogether had come under treatment, and by the end of the month that number had increased to 264. A remarkable feature of the outbreak was its localisation; and that, too, chiefly in the highest levels of the town, without distinction of social position and circumstances. The acmé of the disease's progress was reached before the middle of September, and it thence declined rapidly. Inquiring as to the causes which could have induced the disease. Dr. Buchanan soon came to the conclusion that drainage played no direct part in the matter; and the next point to ascertain was the state of the water supply.
"The public waterworks have their source in two wells sunk some twenty feet into the chalk at the lowest part of the town; one of these is an old well, from which water is raised by the power of an adjacent water-mill; the other is a new well, 'from which, for a short time Attention directed to water supply. in the middle of the present year, water was distributed to the higher parts of the town by engine power,' but the pumping engine broke down on August 1st, after which date no water was drawn from the new well, the supply being from the old well to both the high and low services of the town till 17th August.
"On that day, the water which had been stored in the new reservoir (from the new well) was distributed to the high-service houses of the town: 'it was distributed on no other day, and to no other houses.' Now, it turns out that all the houses first attacked with typhoid fever in the beginning of September had received water from this reservoir; and, without giving detailed statistics, it is sufficient to state that of the 150 cases occurring in the fortnight from August 28 to September 10 there were hardly a dozen persons attacked 'who had not had daily and hourly access to the water of the high service… Dr. Buchanan considers the outbreak was due to impure water supply.
Further source of impurity in water supply suggested, viz., the communication between Water Company's pipes and river (Wey), which is greatly contaminated Dr. Buchanan was unable, on careful and detailed inquiry, to find any condition at all coincident with the outbreak of the fever, save that of the water supply.
"But Dr. Buchanan suggests a possible further source of impurity in the water supply. 'There exists a communication between the river and the pipes of the waterworks. This is said to be very rarely used, and only for the purpose of getting a first sucking power to the pumps; and it is stated not to have been used at all during the present summer.' Whether this latter averment be true or not, is immaterial now, but with the story of the East London cholera outbreak fresh in our remembrance, we cannot but protest against the power thus left in the hands of the water engineer to throw at any moment into the service mains the water of a river so contaminated as the Wey at Guildford must, of necessity, be.
"In country towns and outlying hamlets, the poisoned water spring saps the vigour of the population, and swells, to a degree much greater than is generally supposed, the death-rate of the whole country"
The Outbreak of Fever at Terling, Essex.
8th February, 1868.
The Lancet, with extracts from Report of Dr. Thorne of the Medical Department of the Privy Council on the Terling Fever of 1867-8. "The lengthened inquiry of Dr. Thorne, the medical inspector sent down to Terling by the Medical Department of the Privy Council Office, has been brought to a close.
"The present epidemic is one of true typhoid fever, and deserves notice both on account of its magnitude and the suddenness of its occurrence; for, says the reporter,—
"'Almost entire families were attacked, in some instances the patient seems to be almost instantly overwhelmed with the intensity of the poison. . . On the 13th of January, 1868, 208 persons had already Up to 13 Jan, 208 persons attacked and fresh cases occurring exclusive of milder cases of so-called diarrhœa probably numerous been attacked by the prevailing malady, and several fresh cases were daily occurring. I do not include in my number cases of so-called diarrhœa (possibly all mild cases of typhoid fever) which were only accidentally heard of, and which probably were numerous, though not of sufficient severity to call for medical relief."
The first case of fever occurred on the 13th of November; the next not until December 4th, when the epidemic seemed rapidly to develop, for the report says—
"'During the following ten days 30 fresh cases were seen; but on the 15th, 16th, and 17th by far the largest number were attacked, 22, 19, and 12 cases occurring respectively on those days. After this, though the daily number of fresh cases was by no means so large, still a steady increase took place. … As yet, however, only one death had taken place—namely, on Dec. 14th; but when the third week of the epidemic had arrived, a steadily and gradually increasing death-rate commenced, and on the 30th twelve of the patients had died, and others were dying. Terling panic-stricken on 30th Dec. Terling was now completely panic-stricken. … No class of persons was exempt; the rich, the well fed and clad, were attacked in common with the poor and destitute. At Lord Rayleigh's residence 10 cases had occurred, the vicar's house was a seat of the epidemic, and from one end of the village to the other the disease seemed to be almost evenly spread. Age and sex seemed to present remarkable peculiarities: thus, out of 145 cases whose ages I was enabled to obtain, 79 were children under fourteen years of age, and of the remaining 66, 50 were females, Fact of so few men and boys over 14 years of age being attacked attributed to their principally drinking beer leaving 16 males whose ages exceeded fourteen years, out of the entire number attacked."
"And this peculiarity as to the age and sex of the persons attacked the reporter expresses his belief is to be ascribed to the fact—
"'That the men, and the majority of the boys over fourteen years of age, spend the greater portion of their time away from home, labouring in the fields, and that they principally drink beer; whereas the women and children are left at home, and procure a considerable portion of their beverage from the wells, the children drinking directly from them much more frequently than the women, owing to the latter consuming a good deal of tea, in making which the water is of course boiled.
Population of Terling 900. "The causes of this severe epidemic, which up to Jan. 13th, had stricken down 208 of the inhabitants, and caused upwards of 20 deaths in a population of 900 souls, were due, as we stated in our columns on the 18th of January last, to local influences, and these have been proved (as we then surmised they would be proved) to be the existence of overcrowding, the accumulation of filth and nuisances, and the use of polluted water."
The Lancet then quotes from Dr. Thome's report, as an illustration of the general state of things at Terling, a passage showing that the whole filth of every kind, without any exception, of four cottages found its way into a well, 5 ft. deep, which supplied the inmates with their water.
From the Registrar-General's Report of Professor Frankland's analysis of the water supplied to London during 1867, showing an increase of solid impurity in the water over 1866: —
"Professor Frankland has reported on the waters supplied to the metropolis in the year 1867. He states that the search for sewage pollution in the metropolitan waters has now assumed a high degree of importance. In 1867 the total solid impurity exhibited an increase over 1866 in the waters supplied by the different companies, except in the case of the East London Company, in which a marked decrease had occurred."
Fever at Cardiff (Canton District). The Lancet, 8th Feb., 1868, with Report of Dr. Taylor to the Local Board of Health.
"Fever at Cardiff (Canton District).
"Fever has been very prevalent of late in Canton, a district of Cardiff; and no wonder, considering the positively offensive pollution of air and water which exists there. A very able and practical report on the sanitary state of the locality has been presented to the local board of health by Dr. Taylor, and we regret that we cannot find space for a full notice of its details. The water supply is not only scanty, but largely polluted by sewage. No wonder the death rate of Canton last year (21.28 per 1,000) was higher than that of Cardiff (23.54)."
Fever in Marine Barracks at Stonehouse (Plymouth). The Lancet, 8th Feb. 1868, with Extract from the Report of the Registrar of the district
Water used supplied from a well.
Believed to be polluted by cesspits draining into it.
"Bad Water and its Influence on Health,"
"A short time ago we directed attention to an outbreak of typhoid fever in the Royal Marine Barracks at Stonehouse; and in reference to it the registrar of the district reports:—
"'The water which was used by the men from a well adjoining the new wing of the barracks is clear and sparkling, and apparently much better than that supplied by the Devonport Water Company. In consequence of its being much in requisition, there was a great drain from its source, which I have every reason to believe is a very large natural cavern—one of those which are so often found in the limestone formation. This cavern is upwards of 500 feet in length, and over or on its sides about thirty houses have been built. Persons who do not know of its existence have wondered how it is that their cesspits have not required to be emptied; which, however, is no wonder to me, for I feel convinced that many of the cesspits drain into it. When the foundation was making for the new wing of the barracks, I intimated to the clerk of the works the existence of a large cavern, running N.E. to S.W,; and it was ultimately cut into, showing its presence within about 50 feet from the top of this very well."
From the Lancet, 8th February, 1868, giving Professor Frankland's remarks on the water supply of London during January, 1868:—
"Professor Frankland's report to the Registrar-General on the quality of the waters supplied to the metropolis during last month is more than usually suggestive of the undesirability of rivers as sources whence to draw water for potable purposes. Heavy rains caused the Thames to overflow its banks above the points of intake of the London Water Companies; in addition to the soluble matters washed down from cultivated fields, great quantities of putrescent animal matters were flushed out of the sewers of Oxford, Windsor, &c., into the river; 'hence the large proportion of organic carbon and nitrogen, and the great previous sewage-contamination in the waters of those Companies which derive their supply from that river.' In fact, it is shown that the Thames was contaminated, at the time the samples for Dr. Frankland's analyses were taken, 'with double the usual proportion of organic matter.' The waters delivered during the latter part of the month were 'in such a muddy condition as to render them totally unfit for domestic use.' "
From the Registrar-General's Return, week ending Feb. 29th, 1868:—
"The results of Dr. Frankland's analyses of the waters derived from the Thames are not satisfactory. The waters contained impurities probably of an animal origin to a considerable extent."
23rd March, 1868.
7th Annual Report of Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries (England and Wales). On the 23rd of March last the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries presented their seventh annual Report.
Forty-nine rivers are reported on, namely, the Aln, Arun, Avon (Devon), Avon (Hants), Calder, Camel, Cleddy, Clwyd and Elwy, Conway, Coquet, Dart, Dee, Derwent (tributary of Trent), Derwent (Yorkshire), Dovey, Dwyryd, Ellen (Cumberland), Erme (Devon), Exe, Fowey, Frame (Dorset), Glaslyn, Gwyfrai, Itchen, Mawddach, Kidd, Okement, Otter, Ouse (Yorkshire), Ribble, Sciont, Severn, Stour (Dorset), Stour (Kent), Swale, Tamar and Plym, Taw and Torridge, Tees, Teivy, Test, Towey, Trent, Tyne, Ure, Usk and Ebbw, Wear, Wharfe, Wye and Yealm (Devon).
From the replies received by the Inspectors to questions Nos. 8 and 12 of a series they had addressed to the different Boards of Conservators, and from their own personal examination, it appears that of these fully twenty-five rivers, all described in the Inspectors' previous reports as variously polluted, still continued subject to the same various forms of pollution—namely, from lead mines, sewage, tanneries, naptha, petroleum, and chemical works, carpet manufactories, collieries, paper-mills, and from vitriol, gas-tar, &c., &c., such rivers being the Calder, Camel, Cleddy, Dart, Dee, Derwent (tributary of Trent), Dovey, with its tributary, the Twymin, Exe, Fowey, Ribble, Severn, Swale, Tamar and Plym, Tees, Towey, Trent, Tyne, Wear, Usk and Ebbw, Wharfe, Wye, and Yealm; the Inspectors adding that the Ouse (Yorkshire) was polluted near Linton Weir by water in which flax had been steeped, the Devonshire Avon and Erme by a new sail-cloth factory, and that at the outfall of the main drainage an offensive mud-bank was accumulating in the Thames.
As regards the Calder, Mr. Buckland, struck with its frightful state of pollution, in reference to that river says, at page 21: "I went a long way up the River Calder, a fine tributary of the Ribble. The water here is wholly unfitted for fish to live in. It is a question not of fish alone, but of the health of the inhabitants on the banks, and the population on this river is very dense."
Of the way in which the two lead mines on the Twymin (the tributary of the Dovey)—viz., the Dyliffe and Sir John Conroy's—pollute that stream and the Dovey the Inspectors again speak in terms of strong condemnation, Mr. Buckland at page 14 saying that—
"There can be no doubt whatever but that these two mines are doing an immense amount of injury to the fish in the river, and I have written to the proprietors of them, calling their attention to the facts, and earnestly requesting them to take measures to keep the lead washings out of the river, and I do trust they will follow the good example shown by Mr. Beaumont in his lead mines on the Wear and Tyne. The very day before I was there almost every pool in the Dovey contained dead sewen, and a large number were brought to me."
And Mr. Walpole, at page 68, observes;
"The Dovey, naturally one of the most important rivers in the kingdom, 35 miles long, and with a catchment basin of 264 square miles, is being terribly injured by two mines on one of its tributaries (the Twymin). When I was in Merionethshire last August the fish were lying dead in the river, poisoned by pollutions, miles below the point at which the "hush" enters the river."
- Lord Robert Montagu. [Hansard, 3rd series, vol. 177, pages 1312—1313.]
- This Bill was withdrawn, but on grounds wholly irrespective of the magnitude of the evil and the pressing necessity for some legislation to correct it, all which indeed was admitted. [See Appendix, page 49.]
- In the evidence of Robt. Rawlinson, Esq. (formerly one of the Commissioners on the Sewage of Towns, and also one of the late Commissioners on the Pollution of Rivers), before the House of Commons' Committee of 1864, on the sewage question, he says:— "That, before the Tame reaches Birmingham, it receives above Birmingham the sewage of 270,000 people, and all the refuse of gas works, pumpings of coal mines, and the drainings of the great district of South Staffordshire. Birmingham always suffers more or less from a type of fever. Its mortality is much higher than that of the Metropolis."
- As for example: cholera outbreak in 1854 in the Broad Street, Golden Square, District. Fevers, &c., at Rotherham, 1862-4, [vide Memorial of Rotherham Board of Health, page 18.] Cholera—East London, 1866. Typhoid fever at Guildford, Sept., 1867. [Vide Dr. Buchanan's 'Report to Privy Council, pages 39 and 40.] Do. do. at Terling, Dec, Jan., Feb., 1867-8. [Vide Dr. Thorne's Report to Privy Council, pages 40—42.] Do. do. at Marine Barracks, Stonehouse (Plymouth), Dec. 1867, in which case seven marines died—water from well strongly suspected. Vide extract from Lancet, page 43.
- Of 1848-9 and 1853-4.
- June 30,1864
- Referring to this fearful case, Mr. Mostyn Owen, the honorary secretary of the Dee Fishery Board, told the great Salmon Fishery Congress at South Kensington, in June 1867, that a skilful analyst, after analysing the water, had declared to him that the river which was thus polluted, and which supplied all Chester with its drinking water, "might any day bring down such a quantity of deadly poison that half Chester might by killed by it;" Mr. Owen adding that the Fishery Board had done what they could to obtain a conviction against the offenders, but had failed from a mere technicality. And in reference to this same river, Lord Robert Montagu informed the House of Commons, in the course of his speech in moving the second reading of the "River Waters Protection" Bill in 1865, that "the honorary secretary of the Dee Fishery Association had preserved a bottle of pure paraffin made from the water taken from the Dee below the petroleum works."—Hansard, vol. 177, 3rd Series, page 1316.
- Except, it's is only right to add, (but which the Tamar Board were probably unaware,) the London Lead Company and Mr. Wentworth Beaumont, M.P., both of whom, to their credit, had adopted or were about to adopt, at their extensive mines in the valleys of Wear and Tees, the same measures as the Devon Great Consols Company to prevent the pollution of the rivers.—(Vide correspondence between the London Lead Company and Mr. Beaumont and the late Mr. Ffennell, the Inspector of Fisheries. Land and Water, 13th October, 1866, p.276.—Also, Mr. Buckland's remarks on Mr. Beaumont's good example, pp. 14 and 49 of the Inspectors of Fisheries Seventh Annual Report, 1868.
- Of which there are 54.
- And further on at the same page (39) the Commissioners say:—"Carcases of pigs, cats, dogs, &c., have been removed to the of fifty in a day, but it must not be inferred that they are removed with any degree of regularity."
- On March 14 the deaths had numbered in all at least 44.
- Fatal to seven of the marines.