History/Evolution of Water Analysis, the Equipment Used, and How
History/Evolutionof Water Analysis, the Equipment Used, and How Technology HasAdvanced Since the 1800s
Theaccess to safe drinking water has been a problem in most parts aroundthe world. The situation got worse with industrialization and thegrowth of cities. Cases of contamination increased, thus, raising theneeding to filter and purify the water. At the same time, the need toproperly dispose of sewage and waste water became a priority. Theevolution was slow and has continued over the years. However, it hasbeen consistent and enormous improvements made both in the supply andsafety. In fact, “from1849 to the present, countless wheelwrights, inventors, and engineershave contributed to improving the performance of hydroturbines”around the world (Lewiset al. 11).Today,there is the use of physical and chemical methods used in thepurification of water. They are also cost effective and efficient.Moreover, they are done with little interference on the compositionof the chemical nature of the water. The current paper seeks toinvestigate the history and evolution of water analysis, the toolsapplied, and the way the technology in the sector has grown over theyears from 1800s.
Filtrationis known to have begun earlier in European countries. In fact, Enzlerindicates that “in ancient Greek and Sanskrit (India) writingsdating back to 2000BC, watertreatment methods wererecommended. People back than knew that heating water might purifyit, and they were also educated in sand and gravel filtration,boiling, and straining”. Inthe 1800s, filtering of water using sand was widespread. The placeknown to have used a water filter was Scotland. John Gibb designedthe first water filter which was used to remove visible impuritiesfrom river water. It was to supply the city of Paisley (Lewis et al.4). In 1828, the city of London also adopted the idea of filteringwater where the filter was installed at Chelsea. Although at a slowpace, European cities followed in the steps of water filtering as thepopulation of cities grew.
TheUnited States was slow to take on water filtering for severalreasons. Europe was ahead in industrialization and commercialfarming. Therefore, the rivers were more polluted than in the UnitedStates. According to Enzler, “in the 1890s Americastarted building large sand filters to protect public health. Theseturned out to be a success. Instead of slow sand filtration, rapidsand filtration was now applied”. Atthe same time, it was considered expensive and unnecessaryexpenditure. Richmond city had attempted to install a waterfiltration plant and had failed. Those others with the intention oftrying got discouragement from this city.
However,the population was growing and so was the pollution of the rivers.The need to have a clean and safe supply increased every day. Thecity of Missouri tasked James Kirkwood with finding a way tofiltering water. He travelled to Europe to find an answer. Enzlerstates that in his search, he found that cities in the continent hadwater filters across rivers which removed almost all visibleimpurities from the water. Borrowing ideas from his trip and makingimprovements, the city of Missouri built a water filter and thusbecame the first to adopt the method. Other cities across the countrywere to follow the steps and install water filters at the point ofwater collection.
Choleraand other water-borne diseases became common as people lived inconcentrated areas. Experts argued that the diseases were airborne.One such instance was when in 1854 the golden square area in Londonwas struck by a cholera epidemic. Enzler notes that the diseaseclaimed many lives and the source could not get traced. A doctor inthe area pointed the source of contamination to be the pump used bythe people of the area. He argued that it was the cause of theinfections happening and it had to get removed to save them. True tohis observation, the removal of the pump led to a reduction ofinfections and the deaths. John Snow is also among the earliestpeople to observe that water sources need to be clean. In his days,the same rivers where sewage was dumped were also the water sources.He felt that this was a cause of the problem the city had.Furthermore, he observed that those who had their sources upstreamhad few problems. He distilled his drinking water and called on theleaders to find ways of supplying clean water to the residents.
EarlyChlorination of Water
In1847, Semmelweis began using chlorine as a disinfectant. Before this,doctors would only wash their hands in plain water and assist mothersto give birth. Semmelweis tried disinfecting the water, and theresults were positive. The rates of infections and death as a resultof contamination came down drastically. Although he did not have ascientific explanation, he went ahead to make a publication where herecommended that doctors should use disinfectant in their water whilethey wash (Lewis et al. 4). Many were opposed to his idea despite thepositive results. The idea only came to get accepted later when thegerm theory was developed. However, this type of chlorination wasonly applied for the purpose of disinfecting. It had not occurredthat chlorine could get added to drinking water.
Thestate of Massachusetts commissioned a study on the quality of water.Ellen Swallow Richards was in charge of the task. Her research andanalysis led to the discovery that the concentration of chlorideincreases towards the coastline. Therefore, that is the water that ismost contaminated. The realization was that the water gets morecontaminated as gets downstream. That brought insights on how sewageand waste water could treat before release thus increasing thesafety. At the same time, the chlorine map helped to explain whywater-borne diseases were high for those living downstream (Lewis etal. 6). Based on that, it was possible to establish areas where waterhad most contamination and apply measures to reduce that. Theprocess got adopted in many areas of the United States as a way ofcontrolling contamination of the water. At the same time, it was alsoapplied to determine which water was safe for people to drink.
Additionof Chlorine in Drinking Water
NewJersey takes credit for being the first place to have commercial useof chlorine in water treatment. For a long time, the residents of thestate had suffered from contaminated water. Water-borne disease suchas typhoid and amoeba had claimed many lives in the town.Unfortunately, no remedy was in sight for the residents (Brown et al.6119). As a way of addressing this problem, the management of thecity planned to have a dam where the water would come from to quenchthe residents. The plan was to have a clean supply of water where theresidents would not suffer when they consume it. A company wascontracted to build a dam which would store enough water. One of theconditions of the contract is that the water would be safe from anycontamination. The dam was built across Rockaway River which had thecapacity to hold more than seven billion gallons of water (Lewis etal. 6). John Leal was hired as the chemist who would stop anycontamination of the water as it got into the dam. The flow of thewater from the dam to the city began in 1904.
Thecontracted company claimed to have met its part of the deal anddemanded payment. However, the city management was not satisfied thatthe measures put in place to remove contamination were effective.Since the removal of all contamination was part of the deal, the citymanagement went to court demanding that the company had to lower theprice since the contract was not fully executed. The company, on theother hand, insisted that it is the best they could do to preventcontamination. The city management won as the judge found that thelevels of bacteria in the water remained high despite the measuresput in place (Brown et al. 6120). Moreover, the judge found that thecompany had done little to accommodate changing situation such aswhen it rained, and a flood resulted. Despite the acknowledgementthat the company had done a god deal, it was given a period of threemonths to rectify the situation.
Thecompany engineers realized that building of sewer lines to drive awayany unwanted water would take a long time. At the same time, it wouldnot reduce the number of bacteria to the acceptable levels.Therefore, they voted to install equipment which would help in theelimination of the bacteria. John Leal was of the idea of treatingwater chemically. However, all experts in the country were opposed tothe idea (Telles et al. 45). Through chemical analysis of water, hehad found that adding certain amounts of chlorine in water killed allthe bacteria. Now that he was faced with a real-life situation, hehad to make a choice. Additionally, time was against his as he onlyhad three months to deliver a solution.
Therewas another hurdle in his way. In addition to the fear and isolationthat he may face from peers and the public, there was no knownequipment which would treat the water at the rate of forty milliongallons a day. Therefore, he contacted George Warren Fuller to designthe system and install at the dam. George Fuller was an engineer whohad made a water system which had the capacity to filter thirtymillion gallons of water in a day. That is how the system gotdesigned and installed at the New Jersey water plant in 1908 (Telleset al. 47). John Leal found a way of making chloride of lime whichwould then get mixed with water to form a concentrated solution. Thesolution was then fed into the water through a calibrated orifice toregulate the amount the solution getting into the water. The treatedwater then got released for use into the city of New Jersey.
Thatbeing said, by using the same system, there was the replacement ofthe chemical used in the treatment. Instead of using chlorine oflime, liquid chlorine was adopted. New Jersey became the first cityto use chemically treated water for its residents. The results wereso good that the use of chlorine in the treatment spread throughoutthe United States. Typhoid and other water-borne diseases reduced atunprecedented rates in the whole country. As a matter of fact, it isstill widely used today in the treatment of water. Enzler indicatesthat the period of 1900 to 1935 is known as the water sanitation eradue to the adoption of new methods of treating water. The death ratesrelated to water-borne disease also came down significantly. Thepicture below depicts the water treatment area in New Jersey.
Watertreatment point in New Jersey
Waterfilters were the first equipment made in the early 1800s. They weremade of sand and mainly made of sand and gravel. The first commercialwater filter was made to supply water to the city of Paisley inScotland. The type made in Paisley is known as a slow sand waterfilter. The construction of similar water filters continued inEurope. Enzler wrote that Massachusetts was the first American cityto install the slow filtering equipment in 1893. Later in 1897, AllenHazen was to design a slow operating water filter for the city ofAlbany. The sand filtration plant was replaced by the mechanical onewhich was faster in its operation. George Warren Fuller designed andsupervised the construction of the first modern filtration plantlocated in Little Falls.
Theimprovement in the supply of water demanded that there be a way ofmeasuring its flow. Clemens Herschel is credited with the inventionof the venturi meter (Lewis et al. 4). The device could effectivelymeasure the flow of water. It was applied in the establishing theannual pay for homes and industries. The earliest application ofthese devices was their installation at the Little Falls.
Humanactivities were growing fast. Now that the problem of water bornediseases was addressed, the safety of the water was guaranteed. Thatled to a period of little concern about its safety. Ecologicaleffects led to a new rise about the safety of the water. Theincreased agricultural activity led to the sedimentation of therivers and eventually flooding. There was also the increase in theuse of agricultural chemicals. Through the drainage system andflooding, these chemicals freely flowed into the rivers. At the sametime, there was the industrial waste that was finding its way intothe water bodies (Lewis et al. 4). The water sources were gettingpolluted at high levels thus posing a danger to both human andwildlife.
Moreover,mercury is one of the pollutants that raised concern among theauthorities. In 1941, the department of the interior was charged withthe duty of collecting and publishing data on water quality in thecountry. Around the same time, guidelines were issued on theconcentration of mercury that industries would be allowed to let flowinto the rivers.
Thegrowth of industries continued, and the federal government had tointervene. The downstream states were getting contaminated water fromthe industries which were letting their waste into the rivers. The1948 water pollution control was meant to protect the downstreamstates from getting contaminated water (Lewis et al. 5). According tothe Act, states had to seek consent from the ones downstream to allowcontaminated water to flow through. Those states which did not followthis law would face court action.
Despitemeasures put in place to control pollution of the water bodies, itdid not quite stop. The release from farms and industries led toeutrophication. The result was not only felt by humans but by theaquatic animals. They died in their millions, and something had toget done. Richard Vollenweider associated the increase of nutrientsin the water which leads to the growth of plants thus reducing oxygenconcentration (Lewis et al. 6). There was also a high rise in theamount of nitrate sulfate in the rivers which led to theiracidification.
Thewater pollution act of 1948 did not effectively address the problem.Therefore, it was updated in 1956. The federal government offered toissue grants to the states towards the construction of plants totreat wastewater. Additionally, there was a support to the stategovernment for the improvement of the quality of water. Strictmeasures were put in place in 1972 through the clean water act. Theact sought to reinstate the rivers in their natural staturephysically, chemically and biologically. Pollution was illegalized,and anyone exceeding the limit had to obtain the permit from NPDES(McGuire 31). A greater burden was placed on municipalities to ensurethat they establish efficient water treatment plants. The onlyexception for pollution was storm water. There was also that whichoriginated from agricultural fields as runoff. Later, it became arequirement that farmers had to adopt best practices to prevent waterfrom the fields flowing into the rivers. Similarly, municipalitieshad to take care of storm water. Through such measures, the levels ofpollution have dropped significantly.
ModernMethods of Water Treatment
Themethod came in around 1977 when municipalities adopted it. It is aprocess where water is passed through pressurized osmosis membranes.All suspended ions and membranes are left behind in the water, andthe soluble minerals pass through. Bacteria and other pathogens getremoved as well thus making the water safe for drinking (McGuire 33).The process is so efficient that it makes sea water safe fordrinking. Cape Coral in Florida was the first municipality to installthe reverse osmosis plant. It also prides in having the largest plantin the world. The picture below presents the model of the plant.
Areverse osmosis plant in Cape Coral, Florida
Theuse of ultraviolet is another method which is gaining popularity indisinfection and purification of water. Ultraviolet rays are known toharm the skin with continued exposure. However, its use insterilizing water is only recent. When the rays are passed throughwater, they either kill or alter the DNA composition of themicroorganisms (McGuire 34). When they are in that state, they do notharm the body even when consumed. The method has also proved to beeffective in the treatment of waste water. Although the process islonger, it is more effective when compared to the use of chlorinesince there are no resulting chemicals from the process. Whenproperly executed, the method kills all the organisms thus making thewater safe (Brown et al. 6123). The water can then either getsreleased to the rivers or used for agricultural purposes.
Suchadvances have made water safe. In fact, it has been declared that“ratherthan build expensive sewers that would deal with only part of thebacterial contamination problem (an early recognition of nonpointsource pollution), Leal and the JCWSC attorney argued to installother plans or devices that would do a more effective job ofproviding water with low bacterial concentrations” (McGuire31).Availabilityof water has also increased as some of the technology is easy toapply even at home. Families can install the systems in their homesand purify the water before it is consumed. Similarly, industrieshave perfected the purification of water which has enabled reuse ofthe water. That has reduced the demand for water from the sources aswell as the increase of its safety.
Theimportance of water has brought tremendous trouble and suffering toman. Consumption of contaminated water has caused countless deaths.Water analysis led to the understanding of the causes of illness anddeath. The understanding has led to the search of ways to purifywater. Some of the methods in earlier days included filtration andimproved disposal methods of waste water. Later there wasdisinfection using chlorine. Today there is the application oftechnology to make the water safe for consumption.
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