Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/59

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
49
DRINKING-WATER FROM AGRICULTURAL LANDS.

vaults and cesspools, some of which overflow into the few rude sewers built without any systematic plan, and themselves but "elongated cesspools," or, as some one pertinently calls them, "retorts for the generation of poisonous gases." A large majority of these sinks of abominations have no communication with any sort of sewer, but after prolonged conservation, resulting in horrible putrefaction, when no longer tolerable, are finally emptied by hand into carts and hauled away. Adjoining the town is the gathering-ground of the waterworks of thousands of acres in extent, whose waters, discharged into running streams in a long valley, are collected and retained in a dammed-up pond at the foot, and pumped to the distributing reservoir on a neighboring hill. Water-works and sewerage systems should go hand-in-hand; but in this case there is no connection—the latter, indeed, existing only in name. Even this state of things might be tolerable, were it not that, in addition to poisoning the air and the already supersaturated soil, the contents of these vaults are now directly employed to pollute the water-supply. Destitute of any official control, probably more than one-half of the accumulated town filth is annually spread bodily, spring and fall, over a large part of the water-shedding surfaces. The tank-carts employed are at all hours of the day filled at the doorways of the houses, and shamelessly hauled through the public streets, jolting and slopping their foul contents, marking their route by a train of filth on the roadway, while a column of stench in the air, that lingers long after the pestilence-breeding ox-cart has lumbered away in the distance, proclaims adherence to the practices of the dark ages, and defiance to the rules of decency and the laws of health. A century ago, when there was no generally-known method of deodorizing sewage or decently removing it, this sort of thing had to be done, perhaps, but it instinctively sought the cover of nightfall (as the very term "night-soil" implies); but in this incredible case, in the last quarter of the brilliant nineteenth century, in the midst of a civilized community, there is no attempt to disguise the abominable fact!

The water-slopes are thus heavily manured. What is the result? We shall see.

These farms are very rich and valuable, made so at the expense of the water they shed for domestic use. But this sort of fertilizing must not be confounded with what is known as "sewage-farming," a system of irrigation which is declared by the highest authorities to be the best, cheapest, safest, and most inoffensive mode of disposing of all excrementitious and other waste matter, "provided its effluent water does not get into the domestic water-supply." The scope of this article will not admit even a brief description of this mode of irrigation (not manuring), with its appliances of brick, concrete, and earthenware conduits, its valves and sluice-boards, and its trained and careful administrative corps of workmen efficiently supervised. Those interested in this subject (and which is a side-issue here) can consult the "Conditions of