©2016 Mahoning Valley Water Inc.  Drinking Water - A Brief History      First of all, how old is our water?  Well, the water we drink may be composed of the same water molecules that have been around since life started on this earth 4.6 billion years ago.      Groundwater moves very slowly.  Water that moves one foot per day is considered fast.  More commonly, water will travel a few feet per month.      Most home wells tap into aquifers  where the water is about 10 years old, although deeper wells may tap into aquifers where the water last saw the light of day many centuries ago.  Amazing, isn’t it?  Historically, clean water meant clear water.  Early treatment was performed only to improve the appearance and taste of water. 500 B.C. and Before      Using alum to remove suspended solids may have first occurred in Egypt.  We still use alum today.  What may have been the very first drinking water standard was written by an ancient Hindu source over 4,000 years ago.  It told people to “heat foul water by boiling and exposing to sunlight and by dipping seven times into a piece of hot copper, then to filter and cool in an earthen vessel.” 500 B.C.  -  1000 A.D.      During this time period, the Greek physician Hippocrates stated that “water contributes much to health.”  The Romans developed extensive aqueduct systems for bringing pristine water to their cities, and in the 8th century A.D. Arabian alchemist Geber distilled water to purify it for spirits and clean medicines.  Travelers in the 11th century were advised by a Persian physician named Avicenna, to strain water through a cloth or to boil it. 1000  -  1500      As in  other scientific arenas, little progress was made in the Middle Ages toward an understanding of water treatment and its importance to public health. 1600      In 1627, British philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon, published thousands of experiments detailing water purification methods, including percolation, filtration, boiling, distillation, and coagulation.  In 1684, Dutch naturalist Antony van Leeuwenhoek published sketches of his “wee animalcules”, common forms of bacteria viewed with a simple microscope that he made himself. 1700      Ah, the Age of Enlightenment, where it was finally decided that natural philosophy (otherwise known as science) may have practical value to humans (duh).       In 1703, Parisian scientist Phillippe La Hire presented a plan to provide a sand filter and rainwater cistern  in every individual household.  He also documented that groundwater was rarely contaminated.       In 1746, fellow Frenchman Joseph Amy was granted the first patent on a filter design.  The system consisted primarily of sponges and sand in a variety of configurations.  Later in the century, filtered water was sold on a small scale. 1800      Paisley, Scotland become the site of the first filtration facility to service an entire town in 1804.  In 1806, a large treatment plant opened in Paris, using the Seine River as its source.  Water was allowed to settle for 12 hours, then it was run through sponge prefilters that were renewed every hour.  The main filters consisted of coarse river sand, clean sand, pounded charcoal, and clean Fountainebleau sand.  The filters were renewed every six hours.  A simple form of aeration was also utilized, and the pumps were driven by horses working in three shifts.  This plant operated for 50 years.      Glasgow, Scotland began sending filtered water to customers in 1807.  The first slow sand filtration plant was built in the United States in 1832 in Richmond, VA.  The plant had 259 water customers by 1833.  The next plant to open was in Elizabeth, NJ in 1855.  Up until the late 1860s, only 136 waterworks operated in the US.  Following the Civil War, waterworks construction increased significantly.  Sand filters and other treatments were primarily designed to improve the aesthetic quality of the water.       It took major developments in bacteriology during the 1870s and 80s to demonstrate that microorganisms that exist in water supplies can cause disease in humans and animals.  This led to the realization that water treatment could help prevent disease.  In 1881, William Stripe, the superintendent of the Keokuk, Iowa treatment plant, issued an invitation to anyone interested in water treatment design, construction, etc. to a meeting at Washington University in St Louis, MO.  The 22 respondents together founded the American Water Works Association.      The 1880s and 90s saw significant improvement to water treatment by including rapid sand filters, the improvement of slow sand filters, and the first applications of chlorine and ozone for disinfection. 1900      Ozonation became very popular in Europe in the early 1900s, but was less prevalent in the US.  Ozonation equipment was more complex and costly than chlorination systems, but ozone caused fewer problems with taste and odor.  Also, Europeans were reluctant to use a chemical that had been used for chemical warfare in World War I.      In 1908, Jersey City, NJ became the first treatment plant to use sodium hypochlorite for primary disinfection.   The number of typhoid cases plummeted following the introduction of chlorine.      By the 1920s and 1930s, use of filtration and chlorination had virtually eliminated epidemics of major waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera from America.   These two decades also saw the development of dissolved air flotation, early membrane filters, floc-blanket sedimentation, and the solids-contact clarifier.      A major step in the development of desalination technologies came in the 1940s during World War II when various military establishments in arid areas needed to supply water for their troops.      By the early 1960s, more than 19,000 municipal water systems were in operation in the United States.  The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 came about in large part because of concerns about organic contaminants, and the law laid out the process that the USEPA would use to set health-based maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), and the aesthetic-related secondary MCLs.      In the 1980s, the focus of the USEPA was on minimization of disinfection by-products, and concern for both chemical and microbial contaminants dominated the 1990’s.  The 1993 outbreak of cryptosporidium in Milwaukee, WI., served as a reminder that there is always some pathogen in existence waiting to strike if a breakdown in treatment occurs. 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