Sanitary Reform—introduction of the systematic sewerage in English and American cities
Sanitary Survey (the term did not exist at the time)—investigation of the sanitary conditions in a city and their correspondence with public health status for later use in planning of the sewerage system
Filth Theory—a theory stating that infections could be caused by “miasmatic affluvia” or “aeriform poison”
Cistern—a container for collection of rainwater
Cesspool—a receptacle for excrements and filth in the form of a pit
Privy Vault—a water closet from which the excrements were drained to a cesspool
Private Lot Waste Removal—a system of house-drains and common sewers, privy vaults and cesspools that were build by all households and businesses. The sewers were originally intended to provide drainage of cellars, yards, streets etc., as well as to remove household water.
Water carriage sewerage—a system of sewerage using pipes and water to carry the waste away
George E. Waring, Jr.—a New-York engineer and publicist who advocated the Sanitary Reform an designed a novel sewerage system
Frederick Law Olmstead—one of the first landscape designers and urban planners who implemented the attitudes of townsite consciousness
Townsite planning—planning of towns according to certain principles that make the urban environment healthy
1842-1844 – Edwin Chadwick conceives the pipe-sewers system
1844 – John H. Griscom pointed out the necessity to implement the new type of sewerage after the Chadwick’s design
1840s – the first steps of the Sanitary Reform
1850s – introduction of the water-carriage sewerage
1864 – the first American massive sanitary survey was conducted in New York
1870s – arrival of the germ theory in the US
1868-1871 – Olmstead’s theory of urban progress was formulated
1879 – the Memphis sanitary survey was described as planning
1880s – the Sanitary Reform “achieving its peak strength”
1890s – the Sanitary Reform was undercut due to emerging bacteriological concepts
The following questions are based on the chapter titled “The Impact of Sanitary Reform upon American Urban Planning, 1840-1890:”
The first “current” is the progress in medical science that seemed to have established a link between infectious diseases and the sanitary conditions people were exposed to in the middle of the 19th century. The second is the increasing understanding that there was a connection between the organization of the living space in growing cities and the psychological well being of the society.
The reason for the decline in the Sanitary Reform must have been related to the germ theory that gained in popularity and scientific proof. It meant that decomposing biological waste was not an immediate contagious agent and the odor itself was not dangerous. It may have been the pretext for developers to go back to building without consideration of the Filth Theory.
This happened in the 1890s
The three main ways were: the water carriage sewerage, the concept of which was offered by an English engineer, the sanitary survey planning gradually elaborated by a group multidisciplinary scientists in the context of the Sanitary Reform, and the resulting Townsite Consciousness representing a set of principles of sustainable urban planning.
Originally, sewers were used mostly for drainage purposes and carried rainwater, soil water and household water. They were built of wood, stones or bricks without mortar. They were of a boxlike structure sized for a man to be able to get inside and clean them out.
Before the introduction of water carriage sewerage, a system of cesspools, private vaults, sewers and house-drains was used. Cesspools served as receptacles of excrements and wastewater. The waste and debris was periodically removed and transported outside the city limits.
The existing drainage systems were overloaded because of the dramatic increase in water consumption that doubled in Boston and became three times higher in New York. The sewers and cesspools spilled over and the wastes were out in the streets.
They were poorly designed and inadequately sized, had “defective joints”, were “discharging at their tops”. In other words, the sewerage was malfunctioning and not serving the intended purpose fully.
The design solutions of the time are now obsolete. There was no electricity at the time so many effective mechanisms like pumps were not possible. That infrastructure design was far from what we have now.
“Fully implemented, it required the study of every street, lot, and building in a city to determine the precise location of any prevalent diseases and all suspect environmental conditions. The composite data then yielded a sanitary portrait that became the basis for a complex remedial program, or plan.”
The National Board of Health conducted the sanitary survey of Memphis Tennessee after the devastating yellow fever that hit the lower Mississippi Valley in 1878. The survey was set up to study the sanitary conditions in the area and identify the possible causes of the epidemic. They based their method on the results of the procedural discussions by the American Public health association. The investigators documented the sanitary conditions of every building of the area and issued recommendations as to how to fix problems for all of them.
I believe most of the problems would result from the items that involve significant monetary and labor investments compared to their effects. Item 4 proposed demolitions of various buildings including large ones in the center. I think it would be the most difficult achieve due to legal problems. It would require massive funding to compensate the losses of multiple businesses and provide new permanent lodgings to people. Item 7 requires rebuilding of buildings with low first floors, which is also expensive while the results would not be evident. Item 8 recommended abatement of nuisances as it seems difficult to follow up on.
The townsites must be “free from organic wastes, stagnant water, ground moisture, and human congestion and the presence of abundant clean water, fresh air and abundant sunlight.
Olmsted believed that insufficient drainage was often the reason of unhealthy conditions in suburban areas. That’s why he designed landscapes that fit “natural drainage contours”