Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/62

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52
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

while the ground is frozen, the greater part, at least, will percolate into the earth, owing to the higher temperature of the sewage and the heat disengaged by continued fermentation, and so be out of harm's way before the advent of the thaws and rains of spring. It has been proved by experiments in Maine, with the thermometer at 0° Fahr., that the sewage disappears soon after it is applied. It would be safer, no doubt, but the "brown scum," which, it is said, remains on the surface, would be thrown down by the spring rains, and other poisonous matter would follow as soon as the plough broke the surface. The danger might, perhaps, be diminished, as in the case of dilution in running water—nothing more.

Too much stress cannot be laid on the death lurking in all manner of human excreta, especially those of the sick. Dr. Folsom, the Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, and one of the first sanitary authorities, says: "In no case is it entirely safe to drink water which has once been contaminated with human excreta containing the germs of disease, unless it has been exposed-to a sufficiently high temperature or has stood long enough for these 'germs' to become inert. How long this time must be, we do not yet know." And again he says that, "under certain conditions, human excrementitious matter in certain diseases is almost certain poison, producing the parent-disease in great numbers of cases of those exposed to it, with a degree of virulence proportional to its concentration."

The cases on record sustaining this are numerous; two very striking ones must suffice here:

Colonel George E. Waring, Jr., in his "Sanitary Drainage of Houses and Towns," relates the case of an outbreak of "filth-fever" in Over-Darwin, England, a few years ago. "The first case," he says, "was an important one, occurring in a house some distance from the town. The patient had contracted the disease, came home, and died with it. . . . The drain of the closet used by this patient emptied itself through the irrigating channels of a neighboring field. The water-main of this town passed through this field, and, although special precautions had been taken to prevent any infiltration of sewage into the main, it was found that the concrete had sprung a leak, and allowed the contents of the drain to be sucked freely into the water-pipe. The poison was regularly thrown down the drain, and as regularly passed into the water-main of the town. . . . Within a short period 2,035 people were attacked, and 104 died."

The "Massachusetts State Board of Health Report for 1877" records an epidemic of typhoid fever which occurred at Eagley, in England, in 1876. The report says: "A certain small brook had been used by the operatives of a mill, so that 'large quantities of fecal matter' were found on its banks and in its bed. It was known, too, that one of the workmen was ill (it was thought that there was a possibility of the disease being typhoid fever). This brook had formerly been used, two