Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/645

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SEWAGE AT THE SEA-SIDE.

erecting ventilators, consisting of vertical wooden pipes, about twelve feet in height. These chimneys, placed upon sites chosen apparently without any attention to vertical or horizontal curves in the system, gave forth such fearful smells that at times the beach in their vicinity was unendurable. One near the principal promenade was abolished upon the insistance of hotel proprietors.

This failure added one more to the list of futile experiments which have been made with tall chimneys, having for their purpose the creation of a strong draught from the sewer. Tried in England, they are said never to have worked satisfactorily.

The placing such ventilators, as well as sewers, in a sandy soil, is always a hazardous experiment. If the principal streets are unpaved, surface-sand is liable to fill the sewer and choke it. And paving will not prevent silting up where there is an insufficient fall to allow hydrostatic pressure to force out incoming waves and tides. When egress of sewer-contents is thus checked, "cela va sans dire" the air is filled with a most distrusting stench.

Unhealthy as this contaminated air is, sea-side visitors incur a more common danger in the pollution of water by sewage. This poisoning is done in many ways—by close proximity of wells to sewer-drains, and by flood-water from rain-storms, which, instead of being utilized, is allowed to flow off along the gutters, sidewalks, and roadways. Across level lands, down through porous sand, this water sinks unchecked into the soil, carrying with it all the filth washed from streets teeming with human life during the hottest months of the year.

Civilization's barbarism makes this the more dangerous through the custom of crowding pig-sties, cow and stable yards, cess-pools, and all dirt-receptacles close to springs, wells, and other sources of drinking-water.

Little or no attention is paid to this dirty practice, on account of the popular belief that filtration through the sand purifies water of the poisonous principles contained in sewage-matter. This idea has been disproved by experiments of the United States Geological Survey in 1881. Results were then ascertained which showed very clearly that sand interposes absolutely no barrier between wells and the bacterial infection from cess-pools and privies lying even at great distances in the lower wet stratum of sand. Professor R. Pumpelly, who conducted the survey, says that filtration of sewage-water, through a great many feet even of sand as well as gravel, fails to free it of its organic impurities and the germs of disease.

In consequence of general ignorance of this fact, even when water is sufficiently impregnated with impurities to have acquired a foul taste, the mass of people will drink it without observation; or only notice it so far as to remark that "good water is never found at the sea-side." The majority drank without hesitation at Long Branch, or simply adulterated the water with wine or brandy, even after inves-