Philadelphia Drainage in 1880
An excerpt from
Report on the Social Statistics of Cities

Compiled by George E. Waring, Jr., Expert and Special Agent.
Part I: New England and the Middle States
Department of the Interior, Census Office
Washington: Government Printing Office. 1886

Text of pages 773, 810 to 839
converted using ReadIris OCR Software

Original Title Page

George E. Waring Jr., this volume's compiler, was a leading sanitary engineer of the 19th century and had a special interest in drainage and sewers, and that particular information first drew me to this report. But as I read the rest of the Philadelphia section, I realized that, in total, it presents a vivid portrait of the city as it was in 1880, and I thought that, for this reason, it might have a wider appeal. I have divided this excerpt into two sections:

Section 1: Drainage, House-Drainage, Cesspool- and Vault-Emptying, Sewage Disposal,
can be found below

Click here to access
Section 2: Philadelphia in 1880

The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers

Compiled by Adam Levine
Historical Consultant
Philadelphia Water Department
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[PAGE 818] Copious notes were taken for a very full and explicit account of the sewerage of Philadelphia, and many illustrations of special features were prepared by W. H. Baldwin, C.E. It was found necessary, however, greatly to modify the original plan, and the account given below is only an abstract of the notes. [Ellipses are in the original text.]

Philadelphia is sewered on what is known as the "combined system", the same channel serving for the removal both of sewage and of storm-water. In all such systems the amount of rainfall is the factor controlling the capacity to be given to the sewers. A tabulated statement of the rainfall from 1810 to 1879, taken at the Pennsylvania hospital, 50 feet above the level of the sea, shows that the least amount of rainfall recorded in any year was 23.35 inches (1819). The next smallest was 27.95 inches (1816). The greatest was 67.18 inches (1867). The next greatest was 58.28 inches (1873). Both of these instances of unusual precipitation were due to an extremely heavy rainfall in the month of August, that of 1867 being 15.81, and that of 1873 being 12.29 inches. The following diagram, prepared from this table, shows that the average annual rainfall has gradually increased at the rate of about 1 inch in every three years--this without an apparent increase of the summer rainfall:

The underlying rock of the city is gneiss and an imperfect granite. In the central and lower portions the rock lies below the surface of the rivers. In the lower portion of the city, at the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, the present surface of the ground is a low, flat alluvial deposit, but little above tide-level, drained chiefly by ditches or canals, and by the natural tidal stream known as Hallander's [Hollander's] creek, discharging through tide <<PAGE 819>> gates at low stages of the rivers. This area embraces about 10 square miles, with a population of about 25,000. It is occupied largely by market-gardens and dairy-farms in a high state of cultivation, fertilized by manure brought from the city. The surface-soil of other parts of the city, where undisturbed, is usually clay, thoroughly drained by underlying strata of gravel and sand, which separate it from the rock. In the more elevated portions of the city the primitive rock crops out at the surface. Fairmount reservoir is built upon such a formation near the Schuylkill, which also affords a foundation for parts of the Fairmount dam.

The accompanying diagram shows the city datum and the United States Coast Survey's bench-mark at Gloucester, New Jersey; the datum of the Pennsylvania Railroad surveys; high, mean, and low tide in the Delaware river, and the mean surface of the Atlantic ocean at Raritan bay. The rise and fall of the tide in the Delaware river at Philadelphia is over 6 feet.

The topography of Philadelphia may be generally indicated as follows: A contour line drawn at an elevation of 20 feet above extreme high water crosses Broad street at Reed street, thence runs very near to the Delaware river at South and Pine streets; after receding, to pass around the natural depression at the former water-course at Dock street, it again approaches the river, along the foot of Market, Vine, Fairmount, and Poplar streets. This portion of the bank was formerly a high gravelly bluff', and the river-streets embraced but little filled-in or made land. This bluff has been somewhat graded down to form the streets along the river, but the approaches to the wharves are in some places still inconveniently steep. A contour drawn 40 feet above high tide extends from the East park, at Girard avenue, along the Reading railroad to the passenger station at Broad and Callowhill streets; thence in a continuous line, crossing Poplar street at Tenth street, Norris street at Fourth street, and York street at Second street; thence to the intersection of Lehigh and Kensington avenues, and thence along the general direction of Kensington avenue to Frankford. From this it will be seen that a very large part of the business portion of the present city lies between the limits of 20 feet and 40 feet elevation, high enough to afford dry, healthful, and well-drained ground for business purposes. Above the 40-foot contour the ground rises rapidly to an elevation of 100 feet at Girard College, Broad street, Lehigh avenue, and along the old Second Street turnpike, or Frankford lane.

Still farther to the north the surface rises in Germantown and Roxborough to 200 and 300 feet, and at Chestnut Hill even to 400 feet. The surface of water in the Roxborough reservoir, less than a mile from the Schuylkill river, is 365 feet above tide, while the Chestnut Hill tank is at an elevation of 431 feet. The surface of these elevated regions is rolling, and the ground slopes toward the rivers on each side from a line following the general course of Germantown and Ridge avenues. The divide is much nearer to the Schuylkill than to the Delaware, and the natural drainage of almost the entire city is toward the latter river.

The natural drainage of Philadelphia is by numerous small streams, having their origin mainly within the city limits. Two streams of considerable size enter the city from Montgomery county, but as they lie beyond the built-up district, and discharge into the rivers without traversing the thickly settled wards, they need not now be considered. Of these two streams the Wissahickon passes through a corner of the city and discharges into the Schuylkill at Manayunk. The more important streams are the Wingohockin [Wingohocking], rising in Germantown; Gunner's run, or Hart's creek, which makes its appearance a little above the Tioga station of the Germantown railroad. This stream later assumes the name of the Aramingo canal, and discharges into the Delaware river near the Kensington water-works, after a course of about 6 miles. One of its branches, Huntingdon creek, drains an area of about 690 acres. The Cohocksink and its branches have been converted into the most extensive system of sewerage leading to one outlet in the city of Philadelphia. The district thereby drained is bounded substantially by the lines of Girard, Ridge, and Lehigh avenues, and by the districts belonging to the systems above described. It embraces all of the 17th ward, most of the 16th and 20th, and portions of the 19th, 28th, and 29th wards, with a combined population of about 135,000. Its area is about 2,800 acres. What is known as the Willow Street sewer system occupies the bed of an old stream called Peg's run, the course of much of which has been obliterated by grading.

That part of the city lying between Vine street and South street--"Old Philadelphia" --was probably sewered without reference to natural water-courses, and indeed the area, while sufficiently diversified to afford good falls for drainage, appears to have been an unbroken rolling plain. In West Philadelphia, Mantua and Mill creeks, considerable streams, are being converted into continuous sewers of very large capacity.

There are in the suburbs, or in parts now being built up, drainage areas of much importance, the treatment of which constitutes one of the most important problems of the sewerage engineering of Philadelphia, as thus far developed. What is known as the Hart's Creek sewer, at a point 3 1/2 miles from Delaware river along its probable amended course, has an elevation of 53.7 feet above the city datum. This sewer is for a part of its course an open channel; between Seventh and Fifth streets it is a circular sewer 10 feet in diameter; at Somerset street and Kensington avenue it is increased to a. diameter of 16.5 feet; in Somerset street east of Trenton avenue its flow is divided, and thus continues to the Aramingo canal, each of the twin sewers being 13 feet in diameter. The <<PAGE 820>> discharging capacity of the 16.5-foot portion is 103,000,000 gallons per hour. The cost of about 1 mile of this sewer below Indiana avenue to 1876 was $322,137.81, being at the rate of $62.67 per foot. This is exclusive of expenses of litigation, land damages, interest, etc., which would increase the cost to about $420,000.

The Huntingdon Street sewer, built by the corporations of Kensington and Richmond before their consolidation with the city, is at its outlet 10 feet in diameter. It discharges at about the level of mean low tide, 9.3 feel, below city datum, so that its flow is obstructed during the greater part of the time. There are other important drainage areas which discharge into the Aramingo canal.        

The Cohocksink system referred to above remained an open water-way as far as Thompson and Fifth streets until 1855. There were four principal systems draining into this water-way (the Cohocksink creek); these still remain as built in early times, delivering the storm-water of their districts almost at the city datum line, nearly a mile away from the outlet of the creek. This last mile is now occupied by sewers of great size and moderate fall, finally discharging at a depth of 11.16 feet below the city datum, or about 2 feet below low tide.

Before 1855, when the outlying districts were independent corporations, their sewerage works were carried out independently, and a consequent lack of uniformity is obvious in different parts of systems which are now combined, as in the present instance. One of the branch sewers of this system takes in a water-course originally a branch of the Cohocksink, one of the ramifications of which has become a sewer in Susquehanna avenue near Twenty-seventh street. This sewer and its branch, amounting in all to a length of 1 mile, carry the drainage of a considerable number of houses on the high ground near Ridge avenue. The main sewer terminates in a wooden box, once covered with earth. The wood-work has now fallen in pieces, and at points the earth has caved in (1880). The debris thus falling is covered with remnants of the offal of slaughtered animals in various stages of decay. After leaving the, ruins of this temporary sewer, it takes in several smaller branches from other sources, and after a devious course through open fields enters a sewer connecting it with the Cohocksink main. Other branches penetrate districts which are now completely covered with houses.

The outlet of the Cohocksink drainage is into a slip surrounded by wharves, now used for landing lumber and building-material. The discharge is usually below the tide-level, and is consequently sluggish. The flow of the tide in the slip, obstructed by piers on each side, has usually but little current, so that the lighter parts of the sewage float, while the heavier matters are deposited, gradually filling the slip with organic and earthy sediment. The 39 miles of sewers of this system drain an equal length of paved streets; they also receive the gutter flow of a large additional length of lateral streets. Although in this district there are comparatively few water-closets or other plumbing connections, the discharge of liquid household wastes and much garbage follows the course of the gutters to the sewers, and a very large proportion of the filth of this population of 135,000 is brought to the outlet. The most notable sanitary feature of this system, so far as the interests of the whole city are concerned, lies in the fact that the filth thus discharged enters the Delaware only about 4,000 feet from the intake of the Kensington water-works, the foul current flowing back and forth at every change of the tide. The main outlet of the Cohocksink sewer is 18.5 feet wide and 12.66 feet high. Its sectional area is 188 square feet, and its fall in a distance of 1,500 feet is 3 feet.

The Mill Creek sewer of West Philadelphia, being of modern construction, is of much better character than the average of Philadelphia sewers. The total length of the sewer and its branch is about 12 1/2 miles, the main being a tunnel of a width and height of 20 feet. It drains an area of 4,600 acres, and has a discharging capacity of 136,000,000 gallons per hour; 2,651 feet of its length (Mill creek proper) cost $278,360.44, being about $105 per foot. The cost of the whole Mill Creek system (1880) has somewhat exceeded $500,000. The work affords an example of the most recent methods of engineering practiced in Philadelphia.

Much drainage still flows into the Schuylkill river above the dam; that is, into the main supply of the city. In a communication from the park commissioners to the chief engineer of the water department, June 16, 1877, enumerating the sources of pollution from the east and west parks, it is stated that "a very offensive sewer empties into the river just south of Girard Avenue bridge, passing underneath the same". This stream contains drainage from breweries, slaughter-houses, water-closets, etc.

All of the 21st ward, with a population of about 20,000, lies within a territory having no other outlet than the Schuylkill for its drainage. A large part of Germantown drains into various branches of the Wissahickon, which is a branch of the Schuylkill. Parts of the 28th ward above Nicetown are drained by a small stream leading to the Schuylkill. These outlying districts are not now sewered, and domestic waste is probably in great part discharged into cesspools or absorbed by the ground, so that little of it gets to the river; still the population is by no means uniformly distributed over the district, most of the inhabitants living along the river finding employment in or about the manufacturing establishments at Manayunk and at the falls of the Schuylkill. The waste of these establishments themselves, which is of a very objectionable character, is largely withheld from the Schuylkill and utilized. The probability is that the wastes withheld are mostly those which can be utilized with profit, and that much is still discharged into the river. From this cause or from the introduction of impurities into the river at higher points, where it loses the purifying action of exposure to the air, as when it is covered with ice, its flow, and consequently the water supply of the city, becomes extremely foul. Much of the former contamination of the Schuylkill basin has been intercepted by the construction of the sewer in Pennsylvania avenue. That the old <<PAGE 821>> sewers of this part of the city, now taken into the park, have been perfectly intercepted by the Pennsylvania Avenue sewer is by no means certain. While the greatest pollution comes from the east park, the drainage from the west side of the river is not entirely unobjectionable; during the continuance of the Centennial Exhibition it was extremely objectionable.

The most noticeable engineering feature of the sewerage of Philadelphia is the great extent of territory drained, in some instances to a single outlet, requiring main sewers of great size, such as the Hart Creek sewer and the Mill Creek sewer referred to above.

Excepting these great outlets, the sewers of Philadelphia are built now precisely as they were built forty years ago, with the exception of some slight improvement in the arrangement of the masonry. The cross-section remains as it has always been, circular. By far the great majority of the sewers are what are called "branches", that is not, strictly speaking, trunk sewers. These are 3 feet in diameter, built with a single 4-inch ring of brick the lower half laid in ground shaped to receive it, and usually without cement or mortar of any kind. The upper half is laid in mortar over centers, as is usual elsewhere. House-connections are led into any part of the sewer, usually into the upper part to save cutting a deep trench. The connection pipes are of whatever size the fancy of the householder may dictate, and the construction is made as suits the plumber or his laborers, all without inspection or control on the part of the city. The connection is usually made by knocking a hole in the sewer with a bar or hammer, placing a few loose bricks about it to cover the larger opening, and covering it with earth. These loose bricks are soon displaced by rats or by water, the earth falls into the sewer, and sometimes the sewer itself caves in. The laying of the invert without mortar is doubtless with a view to securing a better drainage of the subsoil. The adoption of the diameter of 3 feet has no apparent reference to the service the sewer is expected to perform. The size is usually so much too great for any demand that can come upon it that deposits may accumulate to an almost unlimited extent before they form an absolute obstruction to the flow of the water and cause inconvenience by back flow. In the mean time the perishable parts of the deposit putrefy and escape through the outlet-basins for house-connections into the atmosphere of the streets or of the houses. These branch sewers are channels for removal mainly with reference to the surplus water of heavy storms. So far as the wastes of houses are concerned, they are horizontal cesspools underlying the city in every, direction, producing objectionable gases at every point.

It is customary in Philadelphia to discharge kitchen and laundry slops, and probably much urine, by shallow or surface drains into the street-gutters, whence it finds its way through the inlet-basins into the sewers. Considering the city as a whole, few of its street-gutters are free from the peculiar laundry-colored flow of house drainage, and every inlet-basin connecting the gutters with the sewers is converted into a cesspool holding at all times more or less filthy water, grease, and nameless impurities. Mr. Baldwin found in his examination many instances of the discharge of refuse matter from markets and fruit-stands into the gutters and inlet-basins. This is especially true with reference to the waste of fish-stands along the streets.

Manholes are quite systematically supplied in constructing branch sewers. Many of their covers are buried under the pavement or under the dirt of the streets, and the examination gave every reason to suppose that they are generally rarely used for the cleansing and inspection of the sewers. Almost without exception in those instances where the manholes could be found and their covers forced open, the escape of sewer-gas, vapors, and steam indicated the worst possible condition of the atmosphere of the sewer. So objectionable is this atmosphere that it is doubtful whether the ordinary device of perforating manhole covers could be adopted here without causing an intolerable nuisance.

There are 13 different sewer districts, each being represented by its own surveyor and regulator, who is elected by the people. These district surveyors together form the board of surveyors, of which the chief engineer of the city is the presiding officer. This board considers and decides all matters of laying out, grading, and regulating streets and public places, also drainage, sewerage, and other matters properly coming before such a board. A petition for a sewer is first examined by the board, "with a view to its necessity. If to be built, the surveyor of the district is employed to make the survey and profile of the proposed line. From these notes plans are made in the survey office; the size of the sewer is fixed by an arbitrary rule based upon the acreage to be drained and the rate of fall of the sewer. The amount of water provided for is 1 cubic foot per-second per acre, but no public sewer is less than 2.5 feet in diameter, so that the acreage rate applies only to trunk sewers. The plans and specifications being approved by the board of surveyors, the affair passes out of their control, and into the hands of the chief commissioner of highways, a different department, who receives proposals and enters into contract in behalf of the city. All main sewers are built under one form of specification, and all branch sewers under another.

Branch sewers have to be maintained and repaired by the contractor for a space of three years after construction. Main sewers while under construction are under the control of the chief engineer of the city, but branch sewers are under the supervision of the chief commissioner of highways. The contractor is required to employ the surveyor and regulator of the district to give lines and grades for the work; also, he is required to make out assessment bills for the cost of the sewer, and to make the necessary returns and certificates. For this service the contractor pays the surveyor, who is the district officer supervising his work, and apparently in no wise responsible to the city. Practically the only security that the city has for good work is the interest of the contractor so to construct it that it will at least last in practical operation for three years after it is finished. No mention is made of the <<PAGE 822>> chief engineer in the specifications of branch sewers, and none of the highway commissioner in the contract for main sewers. There is no certainty of a proper relation of grade between two connecting sewers. The invert is laid with or without cement, according to the judgment of the surveyor, and according to his ability to enforce his wishes. As a difference of opinion exists among the engineers as to the propriety of cementing the invert, there is a corresponding difference of practice. The remarkable consistency of the soil probably accounts for the apparent stability of imperfectly built single-ring sewers.

The manner of connecting a new sewer with an old one was observed in some branch sewers in process of construction and by examining main sewers with which branches had been connected in former years. The invert or lower half of the sewer is first built and finished against the outside of the old sewer, when a hole is knocked through its side somewhat smaller than the new sewer, and the upper half or arch of the sewer is then turned and finished against the outside of the old sewer. The flow of the new sewer enters the old one through an irregular opening with ragged edges. Two such openings, as seen from the inside of a main sewer, are shown in the sketches and cuts herewith given.

It is necessary to finish the invert of the new sewer before making the opening into the old one, as this latter frequently contains so much rubbish that if opened its water would run out and flow into the trench made for the new sewer. It is prevented from flowing far back in the invert by a temporary dam of clay and mud; and the new sewer is built in sections until its bottom rises above the level of the backwater. As an example, a branch sewer 3 feet in diameter, in Elizabeth street, was connected in this way with a sewer 2.5 feet in diameter in Emerald street, which was found, when the opening was made, to be nearly or quite half full of rubbish, brickbats, mud, and water. The connection of a 3-foot sewer with one 2.5 feet in diameter is not important, as neither of them would under any circumstances ever run half full.

The main sewers, built under the supervision of the department of surveys, are constructed according to more careful specifications. Proposals are always for constructing the whole work at a given price per linear foot, which price must cover masonry and excavations, including the supposed proportional part of rock, as estimated in advance; also foundations and all special constructions. The price must also cover all other contingencies, which it is impossible to estimate closely in advance.

This leaves a broad field for speculation, but it is regarded by the city officials as the more satisfactory method, since the cost to the city is known in advance, and the appropriation can be made accordingly. The risk and uncertainty are all thrown upon the contractor, who, if he is subjected to an unexpected outlay in one item, must cover it by a corresponding saving in some other, unless thwarted by the vigilance and the integrity of the inspector. This is very well where, as in some cases, a proper inspector is employed by the city. "But in most instances this has not been done, for want of appropriation to meet the expenses."

Most of the workmanship on the larger main sewers is tolerably good, but much is also defective, several important sewers having settled out of shape or fallen in. The maintenance and repair of sewers rests with the department of highways. The cleansing of the streets, however, as well as the removal of ashes, garbage, and swill, is controlled by the board of health. As a result of this divided responsibility, the health officer sometimes complains that he can not keep the streets clean, because the pavements are out of repair, while, on the other hand, the highway department declares that it can not repair the pavements, because they are not kept clean. The cleaning of streets and the emptying of catch-basins are included in one contract, so that the more street-dirt the contractor is able to have washed through the basins into the sewers, concerning which he has no interest, the greater his advantage. He shifts the cost upon the contractor who undertakes the maintenance, repair, and cleansing of the sewers. The specification for this contract is very simple but comprehensive. It requires the contractor to estimate in advance how many sewers are going to fall in <<PAGE 823>> during the coming year, and how much it will cost to repair them, and to fix a round sum for which he will take all the chances. The contracts issued for the ensuing year (1881) are all held by one contractor, and amount to $15,000.

When complaint is made, or when an inspector learns from any source that a sewer has caved in, the contractor is notified to repair the break. This is done by digging out a place for the workman to stand, provided the hole in the street is not already large enough for that purpose, removing from the sewer such bricks as are worth saving, and perhaps digging out some of the mud, if much is found within reach. An arch is then turned over the broken place and the hole is filled. If there is much water running through the sewer, the rubbish, mud, and debris may be carried along to another point or washed away. But if a break occurs in the upper part of the sewer it receives but little water; most of the rubbish is gradually spread along the invert, and the water flows over its surface. Owing to the great size of these branch sewers, an obstruction of considerable depth still leaves ample room for water to pass, and the presence of the obstruction is probably never found out unless the sewer gets entirely closed or becomes so foul as to give rise to complaint.

Mr. Baldwin reports that he saw workmen standing in water at least 12 to 15 inches deep, to repair a break within 500 feet of the head of the sewer. Such a depth of water of course indicates an obstruction, but the work was completed and covered in without its being removed (Twelfth street, opposite Wager, between Race and Vine). All notices for repair sent to the contractor are recorded, and each notice must be returned signed by the assistant commissioner in charge of the district, who acts as inspector, and whose signature is the voucher for the execution of the work. The probability of efficient service being rendered by these assistant commissioners may be estimated when it is considered that there are only six assistants for the entire city, and when it is considered that these have to inspect all repairs, not only of sewers, but of pavements, highways, roads, and bridges over about 2,000 miles of public highway.

Inlet-necks connecting basins with the sewers often cave in as the frost leaves the ground; sewers sometimes fail from the natural wear, cutting through or displacing the uncemented bricks of the invert. Another fruitful source of destruction is the careless and bungling manner of connecting house-drains and other drains, and it is thought that many sewers fail by spreading out laterally at the spring-line, until the crown settles, cracks, and finally falls in. Whatever the cause may be, during a single spring more than 300 breaks occurred and were repaired in the sewers alone. The nature of the repairing contract compels the contractor to economize as much as possible in all manner of repairs, and to spend no more than he is compelled to for removing obstructions; for he must always hold a sufficient margin to pay the heavy cost of repairing a large main sewer should a break occur in one of these. Apparently the cleaning of sewers is confined very largely to those in suburban districts, where sand and gravel are washed in from unpaved streets. The record of the location of cleansing shows a practical disregard of the very generally obstructed condition of the branch sewers of the thickly built-up part of the city. In the whole city below Poplar street, embraced in the first and second districts, there is a record of the cleaning of only four sewers, although 128 breaks have been mended. In the fourth district, above Poplar street and east of Broad street, embracing nearly one-third of the whole sewerage of the city, with 142 breaks mended, there is not a single instance of the cleaning out of a sewer. In so far as it is proper to draw one from this record, the inference would be, not that the sewers were clean, but that in spite of their obstacles they still furnish a sufficient water-way. Doubtless most of the organic and lighter matters are washed into the river in time of heavy rains; but the heavy rubbish, building-wastes, paving-stones, and sometimes bowlders [sic] and pieces of curbstone, falling in through the numerous breaks in the sewer, are not washed away. They remain to afford a serious obstacle to the flow of water and a serious cause of the deposition of solid matters, especially in the smaller sewers.

Mr. Baldwin made many special investigations by examinations at manholes and otherwise. His report is so important as indicating the general condition of the drainage works of this city, and is so in accordance with the inference that must naturally be drawn from the methods of construction set forth above, that it seems worth while to make copious extracts therefrom.

Mr. Baldwin's special examinations at manholes, at outlets, and in the sewers themselves, give instructive results:

"There is no system of inspection of sewers in Philadelphia, and few persons have ever been in them except workmen to make the necessary repairs, and these only at rare intervals, for repairs and connections are almost invariably made from the outside; hence the condition of the inside of sewers is unknown and appears to be uncared for, so long as water turned into them gets away and does not come back to the surface or flow into cellars or basements. When, therefore, anybody proposes to go into a sewer for no other purpose than to find out its sanitary defects and condition, he is met with looks and expressions of genuine astonishment and surprise on the part of the city officials. The first intimation that a sewer is out of order is that the street caves in, when the break is mended and the street and pavement are restored; but what becomes of the rubbish, bricks, and paving-stones that have fallen into the sewer nobody knows or cares. It is supposed, and confidently asserted, that these are washed away by the water; but when one comes to walk through a sewer he learns better, for even in large mains where there is a great rush of storm-water, the heavier rubbish, such as brick-bats and paving-stones, are met farthest down stream, and behind these accumulate the different grades of pebble, gravel, sand, and mud, while the slack-water backed up behind all shows the deposits still to be in progress. This is observable, among other places, in the large main sewers in Huntingdon, Amber, and Sergeant streets, near the Frankford road, where the deposit of coarse gravel, sand, and stones is about 2 feet deep in a sewer 7 feet in diameter, having a strong flow of water, abundantly sufficient to keep the sewer clean under reasonable circumstances.

<<PAGE 824>>
"A similar instance may be mentioned in the Cohocksink sewer in Randolph street, sometimes called Mifflin street, from Thompson to Columbia avenue, especially in the vicinity of Master street, where piles of paving-stones, bowlders [sic], and curbstones form a dam high enough to set back the water for several hundred feet. If this be true in the great mains, one can expect to find it still worse in the small branches, where the flow of water is too small to carry away even the lighter obstructions of sand and gravel. A branch sewer in Emerald street, below Lehigh avenue, recently opened to connect a sewer from Elizabeth street, was found half full of bricks and coarse rubbish. Where the flow is rapid and strong these obstructions throw the water into violet ripples, eddies, and waves, having a tendency to destroy the masonry and cut away the bottom, while if the flow is moderate they back up great deposits of sand and organic matter to decay and render sewers foul and filthy beyond all description.

"Among the great sewers or underground rivers of Philadelphia may be mentioned the one 16.5 feet in diameter, known as Hart Creek [Gunner's Run] sewer....Like the other great sewers of this kind, it receives the stream directly, without provision to keep out drift, wash, and rubbish during freshets; hence the bottom of the sewer is covered with gravel, cobbles, bowlers, and great stones to a depth of 3 feet or more, forming a bed precisely like that of the creek in the open water-way above, and the stream winds around among rocks, shoals, and sand-bars as if it were running in the open air and not in a great sewer. The bottom is so covered for a distance of about 3,500 feet. The depth of the deposit and size of the rocks and stones diminish as the distance increases. * * * When the bottom of the sewer is not covered with stones and gravel it is exceedingly rough from the waste cement and brick-bats dropped by the workmen and never cleaned out. These have formed mounds and points projecting sometimes a foot or more high, and as solid as a rock. In one instance a pile of rubbish was mistaken for a dead horse, which it very much resembled in size and shape, but was found to consist of bats and bricks and cement as hard as stone. In several instances a tub of mortar had been thrown down and left to harden....Blocks of wood and pieces of timber left by the workmen in the well-holes, only 5 or 6 feet above the bottom of the sewer, have not been carried away, and the little sticks, straws, etc., clinging to the brick-work, do not appear above the middle of the sewer....Other great sewers of Philadelphia are in substantially the same condition as the one just described. An examination of the large flat-bottomed sewer in Germantown, built to carry a stream known as the Wingohockin [Wingohocking] creek, showed the bottom to be amply protected from the action of running water by the heavy deposit washed in, consisting of stones, gravel, mud, branches of trees, and all manner of rubbish....Access to the interior of most of the sewers is not very convenient, as there are no ladder-bars in the manholes, and one has to be let down by a rope and lifted out again in the same way. An attempt to enter the Huntingdon Street main from its mouth under the bridge over the Aramingo canal failed, for the whole bed of the canal is covered with a deposit of soft mud, in some places 2 feet deep, and in others apparently bottomless. The water overlying this black mud is filthy beyond description, and the bubbles of gas arising from it, especially when disturbed, pollute the atmosphere all around. A line of water-pipe has recently been laid along the middle of Huntingdon street, passing directly through the manholes of the sewer, hence making the means of access all the more limited.

"Above Trenton avenue, and in the vicinity of the Frankford road, are large piles of brick, gravel, and paving-stones left in the sewer where repairs were made some years ago at a part which fell in. These accumulations of rubbish have held back deposits of gravel, sand, and mud, and have backed up the water to a depth in some places of 2 feet or more. The accumulations of sand and gravel are very irregular, and the water running over the surface has made them so compact and solid that they will probably remain until removed by some means other than the natural flow of the water. An instance was observed in the inside of this sewer where a house-drain 10 inches in diameter terminated in a cast-iron hinged valve or cover, intended by its weight to close against the house-drain and exclude sewer gas, and prevent the back flow of water if the sewer should become full. It was entirely useless for either purpose, as such mechanical contrivances often are, for the cover had caught obstructions from the interior of the drain and was wedged open about 2 inches; hence it served as an obstruction to the overflow without accomplishing any good purpose whatever."

Concerning a main sewer in Palmer street, it is stated that: "All attempts to find a manhole between Girard avenue and the river were ineffectual; if manholes were ever built they are now concealed, perhaps paved over, but certainly a careful search did not bring any to light....From Girard avenue to Front street there is no difficulty in entering them if one is willing to be let down by rope through the manholes....There is considerable coal, ashes, and cinders also in this sewer, but the most troublesome thing encountered was the foul air and gas. In the upper part of the sewer, near Front street, the accumulation of illuminating-gas, probably from some leaky street-pipe, became so great that we had to put out the torches for fear of an explosion, and walk the rest of-the way in the dark. Attempts to enter the sewers in the manufacturing districts of Philadelphia are useless at any time except nights or Sundays, on account of the discharge of steam and hot water, and even at such times an entrance is attempted with considerable risk and danger; and can accomplish nothing, for the steam fills the sewers so completely that no careful inspections can be made.

"Thinking that current reports might be somewhat exaggerated, an attempt was recently made to go up the Cohocksink Creek sewer in a boat from its outlet at Laurel street. No inconvenience was experienced below the Frankford road. The outlet of the sewer is built of stone and is in good condition, but near the Frankford road the discharge of steam became so thick and heavy that no further observations could be made, and before reaching Front street two steam-pipes were encountered discharging from opposite sides, and the roar and noise was so great that we could scarcely hear each other speak, while the heat and suffocation were so great that the men declined to go farther for fear of being scalded by the jets of steam and hot water which it would have been impossible to avoid, because the atmosphere was so thick we could see nothing ahead, and we could scarcely discern each other. In other places in this part of the city, on lifting the lids of the manholes, the rush of steam was so great that it was manifestly impossible to make any examination....In the old sewer known as East Cohocksink, built in Randolph street (then called Mifflin) and Montgomery avenue, the flow of water is less rapid, but is from 10 to 12 inches deep. Considerable obstruction of stones, bricks, paving-stones, bowlders [sic], and large pieces of curbstone and building-stones obstruct the flow in various places, especially about the old Master Street bridge, which is now part of the sewer. In several places, too, the crown of the arch has settled and cracked and the bricks have fallen out. In other places the sides have washed out, and in one instance both sides have lost the interior shell of brick for a length of several feet. The bottom of this sewer is also washed out in places, sometimes for a length of several feet, and, in one instance, the interior shell of brick was gone for a space 6 feet wide and 22 feet long (Montgomery avenue below Seventh street). In some places the water was running over the ground, and in others over the bottom of rock where the brick-work was gone. In one place the brick-work was destroyed opposite the entrance of a branch sewer evidently carried away by the force of the water rushing in from the branch. This sewer is 10 feet in diameter and circular and has a fall, according to the plans in the office, of 0.42 per hundred; it has evidently been full of water. A gas- or water-pipe passes through the crown of the arch at Columbia avenue, leaving a space of just 6 inches between the pipe and top of the sewer, and this space is filled with driftwood, branches of trees, and a pole about 5 inches in diameter, and estimated to be 16 feet long....

"The sewers of Philadelphia are almost absolutely without ventilation, and when first opened the rush of vapor, gas, and sometimes of steam, is nearly suffocating. After leaving the manholes open awhile this passes off in part, and one can enter with some degree of safety by observing due caution...."

<<PAGE 825>>

"Several things impress themselves very forcibly on the mind of any person on going into the sewers of Philadelphia; among others--

"First. The necessity for a system of maintenance and repairs whereby the interior shall not be obstructed with the rubbish, bricks, paving-stones, and debris falling in from the many breaks constantly recurring allover the city, and from the connections made with house-drains and for other purposes. It may be assumed that any system of public works worth building is worth maintaining in repair when it is built. That if it is worth while to expend $14,000 to $15,000 a mile to build branch sewers, it is also worth while to pick up and remove the building refuse and rubbish left in them by the masons and workmen, so that the water may have some chance to flow through when they are done. There are about 200 miles of public sewers in Philadelphia, and in them about 400 to 500 breaks occur every year, or on the average not far from one break per year for every half mile of sewer; hence it seems quite essential that the rubbish and debris from so many places should be taken out before the whole system of underground work gets filled up. The improved shape and materials used for small sewers in many small cities have not been introduced in Philadelphia, but branches are still constructed precisely as they were in the beginning. This defect is very noticeable in the observations recently made, where in many instances the water now meandering over the surface of sand and mud in the bottom of a 3-foot circular sewer is amply sufficient, if contracted in a narrow channel of a sewer of improved shape and smooth surface, to shoot along like an arrow down the grades and rapid descents usually found in most sewers, and would be discharged into the river in less time than is now wasted in trickling away through a distance of a square or two, and at the same time would carry with it many tons of matter now left stranded along the way until washed out by storm-water, and some not even then. But even in their present shape a system of regular inspection and cleaning out of the coarser obstructions would greatly improve the condition of the sewers in almost every place where they have been examined.

"Secondly. The sewers of Philadelphia are obliged to carry almost every thing which a great population wants to get rid of. Probably it is quite unavoidable that much kitchen waste, garbage, and swill should find its way into the sewers, but there seems to be no good reason why they should be filled up with ashes and cinders, cast-off clothing, boots and shoes, broken dishes and glass, nor why they should be expected to carry off the waste offal and entrails from slaughter-houses and markets, or the steam and hot water from factories and machine-shops. * * * Many other matters are pointedly suggested by, and might properly be considered in connection with the interior inspection of sewers, such as the very apparent need of a better class of workmanship, amply illustrated by the dilapidated condition and appearance of some sewers built not very long ago; the necessity for improved water-way where the flow is so swift and strong as to wash out the bottom of sewers; the need of manholes at more frequent intervals, as they are seldom found nearer than a quarter of a mile from each other, and are sometimes even farther apart.

"There is almost no provision for ventilation of sewers in Philadelphia. The outlets to the river are so low as to be sealed for several hours at a time when the tide is high. The manholes are closed with close covers, not only tightly fitting but often so rusted and jammed with mud and street-dirt as to be raised with difficulty; and many manholes have been covered and paved over so that their location is lost, and they can be found only from the inside. The inlet-basins are closed with a water-seal or trap, intended to make them air-tight, and they are so closed in time of rain, if not at all times. House-drains usually terminate in a slop-stone beneath the hydrant in the back yard, or are led directly into the interior of the dwellings. The traps of the house-plumbing are sufficient, usually, to cutoff all circulation or air, but are forced the moment any pressure is brought to bear upon them, either by an inflow of water to the sewer, a change of temperature of the sewer-air, or any other disturbing influence; hence the dead air of the sewer stagnates, and is saturated with putrescent matter and organic germs, until its condition becomes not only indescribable but unknowable, and this most deadly of all imaginable compounds is separated from dwellings, kitchens, and, too often, sleeping apartments, by a few drops only of dirty water, lying in what is commonly known as a trap. These few drops or spoonfuls of water, if standing quietly at rest, allow the vapors to pass slowly through, as if through a piece of sponge, and finally evaporate or leak away entirely. If water is poured down the pipes, the gas bubbles up through, while if there is the slightest pressure from any cause the seal is worthless. A trap holding water 2 feet deep would resist a pressure of only 1 pound per square inch; while the ordinary trap, holding about 2 inches of water, would only resist a pressure of 1 ounce per square inch. Any disturbing influence in the interior of the sewer, whether caused by a rising tide, an unusual flow of water, a change of temperature, or any other of the many causes likely to occur at any time, forces the sewer-air directly into the houses, while if the slight body of water in the trap evaporates, or is sucked out by a flow of water in some other part of the house, as it often is, then a direct communication with the sewer is opened and the air circulates through in a constant flow. In view of these considerations, well known, but seldom thought of and not often mentioned, the necessity for some system of ventilation of the public sewers is perhaps the most important thing to be considered in discussing the sanitary condition of the sewerage of Philadelphia. Let any person raise the lid of a cover over one of the public sewers and attempt to look down, and he will be convinced of the need of ventilation without further argument. In fact it is necessary only to observe the offensive odors coming from the inlet-basins in many places, or even sometimes observable in the middle of the streets above some of the great sewers, as at Broad and Arch, Tenth below Market, Twelfth from Vine to Callowhill, to be convinced of this same fact."

The question of the sewerage of Philadelphia presents many serious difficulties. The present discharge is, at different points along the river-front, mainly into the Delaware river, a stream which flows back and forth with a strong tide, and which can not be expected to dispose completely and properly of the sewage of the enormous population that the drained area is destined to bear at no distant day. This great extension of the city in area, hundreds of acres being covered by small houses occupied by single families, while it constitutes in many respects a most important sanitary advantage, is full of difficulty when we consider the question of the gathering together and the transportation to a proper outlet of the immense volume of foul sewage to be provided for. The working classes of New York and other large cities are concentrated in limited areas. Tenement-houses of five and six stories, with four families on each door (25 by 80 feet), are very far from being as well situated as are the houses occupied by the same class of people in Philadelphia, where each family has its own house, open to the light and air, front and rear, and generally with a front and rear approach. In the one case, however, the removal of liquid wastes is a simple proposition; in the other, so far as any limited district is concerned, it will be of most serious moment when an attempt shall be made to provide all of these thousands of scattered houses with proper connections with a proper system of sewerage.


The investigation of the system of house-drainage in Philadelphia shows a condition hardly to be expected at this day in a city of such importance. <<PAGE 826>> The remoter parts of the city, which are not supplied with water-pipes and sewers, depend largely on wells for their drinking-water, and their waste is turned into cesspools on the same lot, as in a small village. These wells and cesspools are almost invariably within contaminating distance of each other. As the water-supply system is extended, the wells are abandoned as a source of drinking-water, but the cesspools are still maintained, the abandoned well frequently being used to supplement the cesspool, either by an overflow from it or by a direct discharge into it from the house. "It is often remarked that the water of a spring or well will not rise above its source. It is equally true that by pouring in more water the well can not be filled above its normal level. The great underground flow will receive and carry off an amount practically unlimited." This is true not only of clean water, but of foul water added from any source. Under this arrangement, therefore, the contaminating substances held in solution in the water added to the well are carried by the underground water-bearing strata (gravel) to other wells from which the supply is still being drawn for domestic use. "The experience thus gained has induced many householders to excavate cesspools deep below the water-bearing surface, so that in many parts of Philadelphia these cesspools, now almost universally called 'wells', probably from their origin, extend to a depth of 20 to 30 feet, and even sometimes many more feet below the surface of the ground." These wells, originally located in remote parts of the lot, which are afterward sold for building-purposes in a further subdivision of the property, come under the cellars or foundations of new buildings; some of the original large squares of the city have been subdivided by one, two, or three cross-streets laid through them, new houses built on these cross-streets being frequently built on land honeycombed with old receptacles of household filth. Probably cesspool-wells are never built within the walls of a dwelling-house, but when houses are built over existing wells, these are often used to receive their drainage. The position of drains from old houses is forgotten, and, in addition to its own drainage, the well under the house may still be receiving that of a neighboring house. The earth beneath and around these old drains is usually discolored for a distance of several feet in each direction, and the amount of contamination under the foundations and cellars of houses throughout the whole city is very serious.

In excavating for the foundation of the extension of a dwelling on Twelfth street, not far from Vine, two old wells were uncovered directly in the line of the foundation walls, and only 12 to 15 feet apart. As they were filled with a black, soft, oozy matter, and were apparently bottomless, the usual practice common among builders was resorted to, viz, to turn an arch over the well to sustain the wall of the house above it, and let it remain, disturbing the contents of the well as little as possible on account of the sickening stench given out when moved. An example of a well entirely within the walls of a house, and still used to receive its drainage, was observed, not long since, in the cellar of a house on Race street, below Twelfth; workmen were cleaning out the deposit of black, greasy, putrescent matter, having first dipped out the liquid matter in buckets and poured it into the street-gutters. After emptying the well, the workmen measured its depth with a tape-line and pronounced it to be 27 feet below the board floor of the cellar, and said it extended to gravelly bottom and was walled up with brick. It might be presumed that, as the sewerage is extended, householders would make sewer connections at once and dispense with the cesspool or privy-well, but this is seldom done. It is only when the soil about the well becomes so saturated that it will no longer allow the liquid contents to work away, and hence the frequent visits of the scavenger become troublesome and expensive, that any remedy is sought, and then the first step in improvement usually is to lay an overflow-pipe from the well, so that when full the liquid contents may run over and discharge through the pipe into the street-sewer. Of course, in such cases, the well <<PAGE 827>> continues to retain considerable solid matter until its surface rises above and closes the outlet-pipe. To diminish the accumulations of solid matter, the householder is advised by his plumber to turn in the rain-water from the roof to get the benefit of a large quantity of water-at intervals to wash out and clear the overflow-pipe, and at the same time dilute the sediment and wash as much as possible of it into the sewer. This method of drainage is a gradual development, and one might think it would be found only in old houses where the owners put off a complete rearrangement on account of cost and inconvenience of pulling things to pieces and building anew. But the practice is not confined to old houses; for so great is the tendency on the part of workmen, builders, and plumbers, and even architects, to do work in the manner they have been accustomed to, that many blocks of houses built recently, and even now in process of construction, are drained in precisely the same manner.

The sketch on page 826, made by observations on the ground, illustrates the drainage of a block of twelve houses now building on Lehigh avenue, near the Frankford road, where the drainage from the house and the rain-water from the roofs lead to privy-wells in the rear, each serving for two tenements, and being all connected by branches to one outlet-pipe, laid even with the bottom of the well and connecting finally with the street-sewer. Wells are about 7 feet deep, circular in form, and walled up with a 4-inch ring of brick, laid dry. They have no bottom but the ground. This is given, not so much to illustrate the drainage of this one block of twelve houses, as to show the arrangements of houses of that class which are usually drained on the same principle. These houses are 14 feet front on the street, two stories high, and will probably rent for from $14 to $16 per month. Houses of a more elaborate style, having interior water closets and bath-room conveniences, are drained in substantially the same manner, where a back street or alley affords drainage in the rear, or where a block of buildings belonging to one owner enables a pipe to be laid along the rear of all the lots to make a single sewer connection. In such cases the roofs of houses pitch toward the rear, the rain-water from the front being conducted to the gutter of the roofs on the rear and lower stories, and thence, finally, to the drain-pipe by a leader from the lowest gutter. A hydrant in the back yard, for supplying the drinking-water used in the house, has a convenient slop-stone beneath to receive the waste, as well as the wash from the paved yard, and conduct it to the same drain-pipe. The water-closets and bath-rooms have the same outlet; but, for the accommodation of those on the first floor, a privy is built in the back yard, over a vault, which at the same time receives the kitchen-slops and overflows into the same main house-drain leading along the rears of all the houses until it finally discharges into the street sewer.

The accompanying full-page diagram does not represent any particular house, but is furnished by an officer of the health board as an example of one of the most common methods of house-drainage where a main drain-pipe along the rear can be secured. Hundreds of houses in Philadelphia are said to be drained according to that plan, many of which are new, and some still in process of erection.

The foregoing remarks relate to cases where the main drain can be laid along the rear of dwellings, making a single connection with the sewer; this is frequently possible in Philadelphia, both on account of the narrow streets and alleys so often cut through the square in the thickly populated districts, and also from the fact that in s0 many instances a whole block of houses is built and owned by a single person, building association, or company. The interior arrangement of Philadelphia houses is such that the bath-rooms are usually in the center or rear of the building, and the kitchen is in the rear, on a level with the parlor-floor, basements being the exception rather than the rule. When, therefore, it becomes necessary to conduct drainage from the rear to the front of a house and thence to the street sewer, it is almost invariably done by means of a terra-cotta or ordinary clay pipe laid in the ground beneath the cellar. These pipes laid beneath the cellars are often of a size entirely disproportionate to the duty required of them, being 8, 10, or even sometimes 12 inches in diameter for a single building. The recent explosion of gas in a sewer on Master and Philip streets, already referred to, afforded an opportunity to observe the method of drainage in that locality, which is said to be in accordance with the usual practice. The elements of the system may be briefly stated: The position and depth of pipes beneath the cellar could be noted as they were blown up by the explosion. A privy-vault in the back yard serves to accommodate the occupants of the house, or to receive the drainage from water-closets, if any, in the upper stories. The vault is washed out by rain-water led to it from so much of the roof as inclines toward the rear. A terra-cotta or eathenware pipe from 8 to 12 inches-in diameter serves as an overflow to carry the liquid contents of the vault, passing under the cellar, buried about l or 2 feet in the ground. The waste-pipes from the sinks on each floor connect with and discharge into the main drain-pipe beneath the cellar. A hydrant in the back yard affords a supply of water for all purposes, principally for the laundry, which, in the summer season, is usually in the open air. Beneath the hydrant is a slop-stone with an iron grating, through which the waste from the hydrant, the drainage from the yard, and the water from the wash-tubs pass underground to the same house-drain beneath the cellar. This is the common practice of drainage where houses present a solid front on the street and have no means of drainage to the rear. It may be seen in much of the older part of the city, especially in the district named, and in fact all along the Delaware front below Fourth street and elsewhere.

Such houses afford no access to the back yard except by passing through tile house, and that is very inconvenient; besides it does not admit of the occupation of back yards by building rear dwellings in them. To avoid this inconvenience, many blocks of buildings are furnished at intervals with a passage-way between the houses, usually not more than one story high, the second story of the house extending over and forming a continuous <<PAGE 828>> floor. The passage-way serves as an outlet for two back yards, and, if wide enough, the division-line fence extends through the middle, affording a separate entrance for each property, often closed at the street with an iron or other open-work gate or doorway in the better class of houses. Sometimes the passage-way is too narrow for that purpose; in fact, an instance was recently observed in a street running from Twelfth to Thirteenth streets below Vine, where the passage-way was not more than 2 feet wide. Such a passage-way serves a double purpose, for it not only allows people to walk through without entering the house, but, also, being paved with brick, laid in the form of a shallow ditch, it allows the drainage to run through from the back yards across the sidewalks to the street gutters. It seems to make little difference if a street is sewered or not; the surface-drainage is used all the same in the older parts of the city. The water thus brought out on the surface consists of waste from the back yards, hydrant, the slops from the kitchen sink, and the water from wash-tubs, as well as the surface-drainage of the back yards, and the rain-water from the roofs. Sometimes after finishing a washing and emptying out the tubs, the careful housewife or servant will turn on the water from the hydrant and sweep out the back yard and passageway until it presents as neat and cleanly an appearance as possible under the circumstances, but no ordinary amount of washing or sweeping will prevent such surface-drains from giving out foul odors in hot weather, especially where used by several families, or taking the drainage from rear tenements located in the back yard, and having no other outlet to the street.

The narrow alleys extending through the blocks from one street to another form a common outlet for the back yards, and often conduct their drainage on the surface, being paved in the form of a shallow ditch. Besides the alleys there are many miles of streets only 25 feet wide and sometimes much narrower, built up with a solid row of houses on each side, used as dwellings and cheap boarding- and lodging-houses. A very common way of laying these streets is to have a narrow strip of cobble-stone pavement in the center, with a gutter on each side) and so arranged that the wheels of a wagon will run in the gutters while the horse travels along the paved center. A curbstone and brick pavement form a sidewalk on each side not over 3 feet wide, sometimes less. Even these narrow streets often serve as a line of departure from which still narrower alleys and lanes branch off, and it is difficult to ascertain at what limit an opening between two blocks of houses ceases to be a street, or where the limits of human habitation, are reached. The houses in the crowded back streets and alleys are occupied by the same class of people that inhabit tenement-house districts in. other cities. Little is known of these crowded districts, except as one may observe by looking or walking through them. Landlords build houses in any shape, and arrange them so as to get the greatest possible income from the least possible investment.

A diligent inquiry has failed to discover the existence of any sanitary, hygienic, or other society or association intended to discover or improve the condition or character of the houses offered by landlords for rent to the poor. It is well known to officers and inspectors of the health department that hundreds of large buildings, once the residences of wealthy and aristocratic citizens, have passed through the usual stages of fashionable and unfashionable boarding-house and cheap lodging-house, and now differ from the ordinary tenement-house only in name. The most crowded portions of the city are along the Delaware side, below South street, and again above Vine street, where the average density of population by wards is from 100 to 150 per acre, as will be seen by the following table, the population given being for the year 1880:

The greatest population in anyone ward, in proportion to its area, is in the 4th ward, situated between South and Fitzwater streets (two squares), and below Broad street, where the average density is 153 per acre, while in the upper wards, the 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, in the vicinity of Willow street, Girard avenue, and Thompson street below Broad street, a district usually regarded as densely populated, the average per acre is from 115 to 135, a population not more than half so dense as in some parts of New York. The disposition of Philadelphia to enlarge its boundaries and take in the surrounding suburban and farming regions of Pennsylvania, with its towns and villages, has developed a tendency to spread out and cover great areas with low, small houses. This has been further encouraged by the naturally level surface, easily converted into streets and covered with cheap pavements of cobble, and cheaper sidewalks of brick. Contractors and builders have not been slow to take advantage of the <<PAGE 829>> situation, and building associations have been formed and co-operative systems introduced, until that part of Philadelphia now covered more or less densely with large blocks of such houses occupies an area of many square miles. Mention has already been made of a disposition to enlarge the exterior surface of houses by re-entering angles, court-yards, and area-ways, and by cutting narrow streets and alleys through the squares to afford access on all sides of houses, both for entrance and for drainage purposes. This is still further increased by constructing dwellings in pairs, with a single passage-way between.

The passage-ways observed in the older and more crowded part of the city, already described, where they are but one story high, are, in the up-town regions, extended upward through the entire building; or, in other words, the blocks of houses are cut up in pairs, each pair consisting of two dwellings, with hall-ways and front doors together in the center, and separate side entrances between the buildings, the houses for this purpose being 8 or 10 feet apart. Hundreds of such houses may be seen in all the uptown parts of the city, especially on Broad, Fifteenth, Eighteenth, and Twentieth streets, above Master and Oxford, and also in West Philadelphia, and in other parts of the city.

A block of such now being erected on Nineteenth street, above Master, may be taken as an example. Of course, in districts still farther out of town, as at Tioga and Germantown, the distance between houses is greatly increased; but even there the tendency to build in pairs is very noticeable. This arrangement of houses affords peculiar advantages for drainage and ventilation, and may be regarded as a type of the almost universal practice of building in Philadelphia among the better class of houses. Whether the space between the houses actually divides the block into separate dwellings, or extends but a story high, it affords, in either case) a very convenient means of drainage without laying pipes under the house. It will be observed that the system is the same if the drainage -be conducted beneath the surface in pipes, or if the water from the roofs and kitchens be allowed to flow on the surface, as it often is. It is a matter of opinion in Philadelphia which is to be preferred--to turn sink-water on the paved court-yard and alley-way along the surface of the ground, or to pour it into the privy-vault and thence by an overflow to the street sewer. Both methods are practiced, and both have been described in the preceding pages.
There is a strong popular prejudice in Philadelphia against connecting dwellings directly with the sewers, doubtless caused or encouraged by the bad atmospheric condition and entire absence of ventilation of the public sewers. But, on the other hand, the custom almost universally practiced of turning sink- and slop-water on the ground, allowing it to flow across the sidewalks and stagnate in the street-gutters, has such a pernicious influence upon the atmosphere that one feels an indescribable sense of relief on going to the park or moving out of town where the air is not laden and polluted with the fetid vapors and foul odors everywhere prevailing in Philadelphia.

No attention is paid to the fact, if indeed the fact is recognized, that while household filth of all kinds may be safely delivered into a self-cleansing sewer of rapid flow while yet in its fresh condition, any device for retaining such matters in privy-vaults, cesspools, or elsewhere, long enough for them to become putrid, the surplus overflowing into the sewer, must inevitably lead to a permanent and dangerous contamination of the contents of the sewer-system, and to the production therein of sewer-gas of the worst description.


Since 1876 it has been unlawful to remove the contents of any privy vault, sink or cesspool within the city limits, or to transport the same through any public thoroughfare, except by air-tight apparatus (the "odorless excavating" system). No such removal or transportation is permitted after sunset or before sunrise in any day. The price charged for cleaning privy-vaults is 12 1/2 cents per cubic foot for wells measuring less than 100 feet, and <<PAGE 830>> 10 cents for wells of 100 cubic feet or over. During the year 1876 twenty different companies were licensed for the emptying of vaults, etc., by the "odorless" apparatus. A permit is required for the emptying of each vault, etc., but this hardly gives information as to the amount of material removed, as the capacity of the various places of deposit varies widely. In the year 1880 the total number of permits was about 9,000. The president of the principal excavating company estimates the total amount of waste removed by all to be about 27,000 tons per year. Of this, probably 22,000 tons is matter sufficiently fluid to be handled with pumps and hose, the remaining 5,000 tons consisting largely of II coal ashes and cinders, brickbats, broken dishes and glass, bottles, kitchen-utensils, boots, shoes, tin cans, cast-off wearing apparel, and, in fact, every imaginable thing which servants and others find it more convenient to hide in the privy-vault than to expose in the ash-barrel or to throw into the streets". The matters removed are largely used by farmers and market-gardeners of the vicinity, the liquid portions generally by surface application after a considerable dilution with water in vats and cisterns constructed for the purpose.


Roughly speaking, the entire discharge of the sewers is delivered into the rivers-into the Schuylkill mainly below the water-works dam, and into the Delaware along the whole river-front below the month of Gunner's run, by which much of the drainage of the eastern slope is intercepted. The tidal movement in the Schuylkill is, owing partly to the presence of the dam, much less active than that of the Delaware, and the condition of its waters is obviously more foul. The sewage of the whole eastern slope below the foot of Otis street, a distance of about 3.5 miles, including the discharge of the Aramingo canal, flows directly to the Delaware river. The river-front is provided with long and solid piers, between which are slips, which are only indirectly influenced by the tidal movement, permitting a considerable deposit of putrescible matters. Aside from the silting up of the slips, the chief point of interest in this connection is to be found in the fact that that part of the city lying north of Callowhill street and east of Broad street as far as the connecting railroad to the north, occupying about 3,450 acres, and with an estimated population of 208,000, is supplied with water pumped directly from the Delaware river. The pumping station of the "Delaware and Kensington water-supply district" is at the foot of Otis street. Within 6,000 feet of the intake of these works there is discharged the drainage and sewage of an area of the city containing a population of 347,000, the most distant point of discharge being a little more than 1 mile distant from the works. The great Cohocksink system, with an estimated population of 135,000, discharges only 4,000 feet below; and the mouth of the Aramingo canal, draining 2,858 acres, with an estimated population of over 80,000, is only 350 feet below. "The mean duration of the rise above mean tide is 4 hours and 45 minutest and of the fall below mean tide is 7 hours and 36 minutes, indicating that the direction of the current must be against that of the river, or up stream, for several hours in succession-quite long enough to convey the water polluted by sewage within reach of the pumps, even when the sewers discharge at a considerable distance down stream." It is to be considered in this connection that the pumps operate principally during the higher portions of the tide.


The foregoing brief account of the house-drainage and sewerage of Philadelphia, while far from complete, seems to be sufficient to indicate in the clearest manner the general character of these works as existing and as still being constructed in the second city of the United States.

While the work done includes some well-planned and well-constructed main sewers, the system as a whole is totally and inexcusably bad, violating nearly every accepted principle of sanitary engineering, and inevitably counteracting those natural influences which are so conducive to the health of a population. It is, however, proper to call attention to the generally accepted and doubtless correct statement that the death-rate of Philadelphia is lower than that of other cities which have fewer palpable defects in their public and private sanitary works. This low death-rate can be ascribed only to the very favorable conditions under which the working classes of the population live. As a general rule--and this is a very marked and most interesting feature of Philadelphia--every family lives in its own house, and every individual lives and sleeps in a room well lighted and ventilated by outer windows. This condition removes from the problem the most important feature of "overcrowding", to which is due so much of the mortality of large cities the world over.

The proper inference would seem to be that, this factor being absent, if a proper system for the removal of household wastes could be extended to all parts of the city of Philadelphia, it might reasonably be hoped that there would thereby be secured a lower death-rate, even much lower than that of any other city of the world.

The question of the universal sanitary improvement of the city in the respect referred to is one of the greatest magnitude. There are about 2,000 miles of streets in the city, and population is rapidly extending in every direction. There are at this time (1880) less than 200 miles of sewers, all told, and a very large proportion are entirely unsuited for the use for which they were intended.

To construct proper sewers throughout the city, to secure the needed remodeling of house-drainage, and to provide for the permanent unobjectionable disposal of the city's filth, would involve an expenditure of money and an application of engineering skill hardly called for in any city of the civilized world.


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