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Reasonable UseThe People, the Environment, and the State, New England 1790-1930$
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John T. Cumbler

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195138139.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 January 2022

"Most Beautiful Sewer"

"Most Beautiful Sewer"

Chapter:
(p.147) 9 "Most Beautiful Sewer"
Source:
Reasonable Use
Author(s):

John T. Cumbler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195138139.003.0013

The reforms of the late nineteenth century did help protect New England’s drinking water. The plague of water-borne diseases that made the region’s cities so infamously dangerous to live in seemed to be in retreat. For a moment, it looked as if the new century would bring a world in which there did not have to be trade-offs between economic development and environmental quality. The ideal articulated by Lyman and Mills—that professional expertise would transcend conflicts of interests between manufacturers and reformers—seemed at hand. Yet there were still problems that these optimists overlooked. And these problems broke into view again in the new century. Despite the health gains, New England’s rivers and streams continued to receive massive influxes of pollution of both industrial wastes and human sewage. The larger cities along the major river systems continued their practice of dumping raw sewage downstream, while manufacturers still saw running water as a natural disposal system for their wastes. Industrial wastes, although less central in the conversation around public health and the environment, were clearly polluting water systems, and reformers never completely gave up the struggle to clean water of industrial pollutants. In its 1896 report, the Massachusetts State Board of Health discussed possible solutions to the problems of “waste liquors or sewage from those manufacturing industries in the State which pollute or threaten to pollute our rivers and ponds.” The Lawrence station experimented with different methods of removing industrial wastes. Yet the “problem of successful and economical disposal of this sewage [remained].” As people began to look at clean water as an aesthetic as well as a health issue, the ability of water to sustain live fish, which had been dismissed twenty years earlier, now became a concern. Commissions on fisheries that had focused attention on fishways and fish cultivation in the nineteenth century began to revisit the issue of water pollution as they noticed their hatchery fish dying in polluted waters; oyster growers complained to the commissions that their oyster beds were being polluted.

Keywords:   bathing, dissolved oxygen (DO), metal-working industry, oxygen, dissolved (DO), oyster beds, recreation, sewage, sewers, swimming

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