Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/63

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53
DRINKING-WATER FROM AGRICULTURAL LANDS.

hundred yards below, for domestic purposes, but had generally been abandoned since it had become impure, although two families continued to use it, of whom one had typhoid fever, and the other (who boiled it before use) escaped. This same water continued to be used at a dairy, and was the only supply there. Although there is no positive evidence that the milk was diluted with it, it was acknowledged that the milk cans were washed in it.

"From January 30th. . . . to February 15th, 146 persons were attacked, when the epidemic declined."

After giving further details it is stated that in the town of Bolton, two miles distant, "there were fifty families attacked, of whom forty-seven were supplied with milk from this same daily." The investigating officer reported that "not one household to which the milk was traced did he find entirely free from the disease."

Liebermeister, an eminent authority, says, speaking of the spread of typhoid fever through water-works: "Such infection of an aqueduct is most easily effected when excrements from privies containing the typhoid poison are used as manure on the fields from which the aqueduct receives its supply. In this way originated the epidemic in Stuttgart in the year 1872."

Aside from the water we take into our stomachs, sanitation and sentiment alike demand that it should be wholesome. Denton says: "The water used for personal ablution, and for the washing of the clothes we wear, and the utensils we use in cooking, have a material though not so direct an influence on our sanitary condition." The milk-can case had not occurred when this was written, for, if that be true, he might have put it still stronger.

We can safely conclude that it is the quality of the sewage-matter that determines the character and virulence of its poisonous effects, rather than the quantity of foul matter that may be present in the drinking-water, the taint from the fecal matter of one sick person creating wider-spread havoc than that from hundreds of those "that need no physician."

Long before the milk-can case occurred, the English commissioners said that "really there is no reason whatever to believe that the injurious character of sewage depends, fundamentally, upon the quantity of that sewage; in all probability it far more depends upon the quality of the sewage, namely, what it consists of."

As people generally have a vague idea of what sewage consists, any further than that it is a nasty mess, it may be well, in closing this article, to give the definition of the term "sewage" as applied by the English Rivers Pollution Commissioners. It is "any refuse from human habitations that may affect the public health. . . . Sewage is a very complex liquid; a large proportion of its most offensive matters is, of course, human excrement discharged from water-closets and privies, and also urine thrown down gully-holes. But mixed with this