This Day in History: December 5th, 1911

This Day in History: December 5th, 1911


Advisory Commission Recommends That City and Borough Get Together- Pollution of Lawrence Brook New Brunswick’s Greatest Danger.

Co-operation with Milltown on the basis of a bargain by which that borough may obtain a water supply from this city in return for its establishing a sewage disposal plant to prevent contamination of Lawrence Brook, is the fundamental plan proposed for the purification of the city water supply proposed by the Advisory Water Commission to Common Council last night.

A filtration plant is also recommended, but as a matter of secondary importance “The necessity does not depend,” says the report. “upon present conditions at Milltown, for that situation must be changed in any event. But that (pollution) being eliminated, a suitable filter will not only tend to protect the water from sporadic or possible contamination elsewhere, but will remove vegetable matter which now causes objectionable color, odor, and sometimes taste.”

The commission as side issues recommends the raising of the dam at Weston’s Mills three feet to increase the reserve supply and also the reformation of rates by which Highland Park is supplied, that borough actually getting water cheaper than the inhabitants of New Brunswick.

In the event that the Milltown pollution cannot be stopped, the commission recommends a storage reservoir at Parson’s pond, which would cost the city $347.000, or about three times the estimate for the purification and filtration plant. The artesian well plan is dismissed because of uncertainty as to amount of supply.

The Commission.

The commission, which was appointed on April 17 last, consists of Former Mayor Drury W. Cooper Eugene P Darrow, William H. Benedict, Alfred A. Titsworth, Frederick C. Schneider and Alfred S March

The commission visited Council in a body last evening, and the report was presented by its president, Mr. Cooper, who expressed the thanks of the members for the honor conferred upon them, also for Council’s support in the matter of appropriations for necessary expenses, of which, he said. a balance would be returned to the city.

“Our recommendations,” said Mr. Cooper, “do not entail the expenditure of any great amount. We have not sought ideal conditions, but simply to advise the city to under- take just such work as is actually necessary

“The report lays particular emphasis upon conditions at Milltown. which are not due to any fault or intention on the part of Milltown, nor to any inattention on the part of the officials of New Brunswick, but to the ordinary growth of the neighboring community. We hope that means will be found, acceptable to all parties, so that the matter can be attended to with the least possible expense and trouble”

Milltown Mayor Willing.

City Attorney Weigel, who is also borough attorney of Milltown, said that Mayor Conrad Richter, of the latter place, had attended sessions of the commission, and had informed him of an intention to appoint a similar commission in Milltown to consider a disposal plant.

On motion of Mr. Ridgeway the report was received and referred to the Finance Committee.

The report in its opening reviews the history of the commission and says that co-operation by Milltown was invited, but that the commission did not feel justified in waiting longer than it had for such co-operation. Continuing the report says:

Possible Sources of Supply.

“Aside from the present source of supply, we have Investigated the Raritan river and the driving of artesian wells. The river, while furnishing an abundant supply, is harder in quality of water than Lawrence Brook, besides containing a greater percentage of mineral matter, and showing higher color: in addition, it is open to the same objection raised against the present supply: Danger of pollution from settlements above us

“Repeated attempts have been made in this vicinity by private users to drive artesian wells, but the results are far from encouraging

“On the other hand, the city now enjoys water of admirable softness. supplied by a system that has been enlarged as the city has grown, and drawn from a water shed having much less density of population than the Raritan valley; there is an investment of more than $150,000 in the present pumping station and its mains to the reservoir, which would be lost if the supply were changed.

“From these considerations (which have been greatly amplified in the commission’s investigations) It is clear that, unless serious objection be raised, regarding either limitation of present supply or unavoidable pollution, the city should not change either to river or to driven wells,

“The city’s supply is drawn from the lowest of a series of five ponds, the highest of which lies on the south side of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line, a little more than a mile east of Monmouth Junction. The storage capacities of these ponds, as now dammed, are given in the following table:

Pond No. 1 . . . . . . . . . . . 26,542,000

Davison’s Pond . . . . . . . 10,557,000

Parson’s Pond. . . . . . . . 39.455,000

Milltown Pond . . . . . . . 9.765,000

Weston’s Mill Pond. . . 130.399,000

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .226.718.000

“From this it will be seen that, of the total stored by dams now built on the watershed, more than one- half is in our own pond: secondly, that, although it is the lowest of the series, its storage capacity is only equal to about 5 days maximum production of the entire shed, or cording to the estimates of the State Board: furthermore, that our pond holds less than 50 days’ supply at the present rate of consumption-in other words, that the amount actually stored behind the present dam would last the city a little over a month If the flow into it should stop.

“We are clearly of the opinion that the capacity of the city’s storage should be substantially increased by one of the plans that will be discussed presently.

Character of the Water.

“As stated above, the water is of unusual and most desirable softness, and so is especially adapted to domestic and factory uses. It teems with organic life, both animal and vegetable Something like 15 species of alga and other forms of vegetable growth have been identified. From the changes incident to the life and growth of these organisms arise the color, odor and taste which at times reach a point where they are very objectionable and deleterious

“Color, odor, and taste are chiefly. the results of decaying vegetation On the average there is very small mineral content.

“These objections, while serious enough to require attention, are of far less importance than the matter now to be considered.


“Were it not for Milltown and the dangerous and intolerable nuisances there, our citizens need have no special anxiety as to the contamination of their water supply

“The conditions at Milltown are these:

“Some 2,000 people dwell on the banks of Lawrence Brook, about the dam of Milltown pond: there are the large rubber mills of the Michelin Tire Co., situated just above the dam: a card factory and the power house and car barns of the Public Service Corporation just below it: and several hotels, all crowded close to the water’s edge. The borough has no sewerage system, so that the danger of fecal matter flowing, by natural surface or subsoll drainage, into our water supply, is constant and growing. The daily washing of cars in the car barns and a large number of employees daily at the factories augment the danger. Part of the surface drainage from Milltown is into the pond above the dam. Part below the dam and directly into Weston’s pond

Superficial examination shows a number of pipes leading from the Michelin factory to or into the water and a free discharge of more or less offensive fluid from them.

Analysis of Samples.

The report then tells of analysis of duplicate sets of samples taken on June 7 last, one set being submitted to the State Board of Health at Trenton, the other to Prof North and Mr. Doryland, of Rutgers

Present Conditions Are Dangerous.

“The only safeguards that New Brunswick has at present from an epidemic of any communicable disease affecting the Intestinal tract- typhoid and typhus, for example, that may exist in Milltown are, first. the two miles or so of flow down the city’s pond; second, such rough and ready means as are now employed at the pump house to purify the water before drinking it. But these means are Inadequate.

Thus, with reference to treatment of water by calcium hypochlorite, where the water is not filtered, there may be minute particles of matter enclosing bacteria which are not affected by the chemical, besides, there is always danger of incomplete mixture of hypochlorite with the water in any scheme of application. We believe that this means of treating our water should be continued pending the permanent improvements referred to.

Likewise, the two mile now in our pond, although sluggish and thereby increasing the tendency to self purification by exposure to air and sun- light and by sedimentation, is insufficient, according to experience, to eliminate colon or typhoid bacteria. It is understood that in the case of the typhoid epidemic Scranton, Pa. the bacilli were carried a greater distance than that, while a recent writer cites a similar epidemic that caused 69 deaths out or a total of 1.067 typhoid cases, which was traced to sewage from towns and mills dumped into the water supply at various points the nearest of which was only about eight miles away”

The boiling of water is, of course, efficient, but as it makes it unpalatable in many mouths, imposes an easily shirked duty upon those who are either indifferent or already over-burdened with household cares, and distributes among all the inhabitants a duty or an essentially public nature, this safeguard is least of al to be relied on.

The Remedy.

“The question naturally arises. why should Milltown be permitted to pollute our water supply and thus constantly menace the health of New Brunswick? Apparently, the only answer is, that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business.

“Ample authority to Institute suitable action to suppress such nuisances was given the Board of Water Commissioners by the statute under which the City acquired the property and franchises of the New Brunswick Water Company, which company by the statutes of 1859 and subsequent years had been clothed with very extensive and valuable powers to establish and acquire water-rights in Middlesex and Somerset Counties.

“Although, by some recent legislation, the State Board of Health is given the power to initiate and enforce action to prevent or stop pollution of the potable water within the State, nevertheless the health of the city should not be jeopardized because of the laxity or inaction of any State authorities.

“The prime requisite to any scheme of betterment is the total elimination of pollution by sewage at Milltown in our judgment, this can be accomplished only by the erection and maintenance by Milltown of a sewage disposal plant, located at some point outside the water-shed of Lawrence Brook.


In the present are your Commisions recommended to following plan as

Adequate to meet all present conditions, and future requirements, so far as they are now foreseen:

“1. That the pollution by sewage at Milltown be eliminated by persuading or encouraging, that Borough to erect a sewage disposal plant outside the water-shed.

“2. When that is done, we recommend that the dam at Weston’s Millpond be ramed 7 foot in height. This will increase the storage capacity of the pond from 120,000,000 gallons to 200,000,000 gallons approximately, Because of the step banks this would not materially widen the pond or overflow adjacent lands. The advantage of this will be not merely in the increased available — which in seasons as dry as that of 10 would be immensely valuable to the city but, regulating the flow of the stream will give greater opportunity for sedimentation, and consequent self-purification of the water.

It is estimated that the cost of the work necessary for the additional height of dam and retaining walls the sides of the pond will not exceed fifteen thousand dollars $15,000, or fall below thirteen thousand dollars $13,000.

“3. The necessity of filtration does not depend, in our judgment, upon the present conditions at Milltown, for that situation must be changed in any event. A filtration plant should not be relied upon to safeguard against manifest pollution. But, that being eliminated, a suitable filter will not only tend to protect the water from sporadic or possible. contamination elsewhere, but will remove vegetable matter which now causes objectionable color, odor and sometimes taste,

“4. In the event that sewage at Milltown cannot be dealt with as heretofore recommended because of legal obstacles not apparent from our Investigations, or because those charged with the duty of acting fail to protect the city’s interests, there is no safe recourse for the city except to acquire land and build a large storage reservoir at Parsons Pond, and pipe from there to our present pumping station. Provisional plans and estimates were made for such a scheme some 30 years ago by the late Dr. George H. Cook and having reviewed his plans and figures (which are filed herewith, we are of opinion that his estimate of maximum storage capacity of 1,640, 000,000 gallons and of probable cost of $347,000, including cost of land, dam and piping, are fair and just now.

“But this plan is open to patent objections; among them these: It saddles upon the city an expense that Is avoidable if pollution at Milltown be eliminated; it does not avoid the necessity of filtering in order to rid the water of odor, color and taste: and it reduces the drainage area by more than 25 per cent and that means a lowering in that proportion of the average daily flow available for our uses, in dry seasons.

“Such a storage reservoir may, in years to come, be necessitated by large increase In population, as an auxiliary to Weston’s Pond: but no such necessity now exists, in our Judgment.

“5. Contain matters of relatively minor importance claim attention. The city has the right to assess and collect water taxes on all lands fronting on lines of pipe, whether or not the owners use the supply. We understand that this power has not been exercised in the practice of the Water Department.

“The city at present delivers water to the neighboring Borough of Highland Park at less net rates than in our own city. We have examined the contract, executed about two years ago, and find that, upon its face it provides for equal rates in both places; but Highland Park taxes our city for the value of the piping system that is laid there, so that the Borough has a preference despite the facts that our citizens own the plant, and that the average distance of delivery in Highland Park greatly exceeds the average distance of delivery to our own townspeople. We can find little to commend in the terms of the Highland Park contract: In case of threatened famine. this city should have a preference In the use of its own water, but that is specifically excluded: no lien is given against property in the Borough for unpaid water rates, so that the city’s ability to collect seems to depend entirely upon the willingness of the users there to remit; and apparently no right is given our Board to charge property there that abuts our lines unless the owners connect with them. We strongly recommend that, if possible, this contract be rescinded, or reformed, in order to give New Brunswick its due.

“It is believed by the members of this Commission that, with the improvements in plant that we have recommended, the Borough of Milltown may agree to take water from our plant. For obvious reasons, It has no present interest In doing s But if that Borough will remove its sewage from the watershed, Its suspicions of the purity of the supply will be gone; and, it if then becomes a customer of our water department, the individual and collective interest there in avoiding pollution, will be as great a sin this city.

“Without making a specific recommendation on this point, we leave it to the good judgment and self-interest of both communities to determine whether co-operation is not the best course. Having examined the physical conditions, we are satisfied. that a workable scheme is entirely feasible


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