If the People Will It that the Streams of
Pennsylvania Shall Be Clean

Address by Grover C. Ladner, Esq.
President, Philadelphia Chapter of the Izaak Walton League; Chairman of Water Committee, Conservation Council of Pennsylvania, and
Special Counsel for City of Philadelphia
in Charge of Schuylkill River Pollution Litigation.

Annual Meeting Pennsylvania Division
Izaak Walton League of America, Monday, September 9th, 1929.

Published by Pennsylvania Division, Izaak Walton League of America,
Room 315 Commonwealth Building, 212-214 North Third Street,
Harrisburg, Pa.

Original document in PWD Historical Collection
Created using ReadIris OCR Software

In this 18-page pamphlet Ladner urged his listeners/readers to support the passage of state
Pure Streams Act. For many years Ladner was active in the fight to protect the streams of the state, especially the Schuylkill River.

The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers

Compiled by Adam Levine
Historical Consultant
Philadelphia Water Department
HomeCreek to sewerDown underarchivesmapsAdam LevineLinks


Governor Fisher in his message to the last Pennsylvania Legislature said: "Stream pollution is one of the greatest evils that threatens the healthfulness, usefulness and beauty of our many noble rivers and smaller streams. The evil has grown to alarming proportions...Most of the waters in the public streams are now so overloaded with poisonous matter that they have become carriers of disease and destroyers of all forms of aquatic life." Can these streams of Pennsylvania be cleaned up? Can they be transformed from filthy, reeking, open sewers, which are now an offense to the sight, a stench to the nostrils and a menace to our health and prosperity, into clear, clean waterways? They can, and Philadelphia has shown how in the case of the Schuylkill.


The Schuylkill is the most important tributary of the Delaware. It rises on the North side of the foothills of the Blue Mountains, follows a general southeasterly course, the upper reaches flowing through the Schuylkill Valley anthracite mining regions. Its junction with the Delaware, when viewed from that river, is hidden by League Island, whence its name "Schuylkill," being the Dutch for "hidden river." When first discovered by the hardy Dutch explorers, its beauty was entrancing. William Penn, who had about made up his mind to layout his City of Brotherly Love near where Chester now stands, was persuaded to sail up the Delaware a few miles farther to the junction of the hidden river. He was so charmed by the location between these two magnificent rivers that he located his city at that point.

In 1799 the City of Philadelphia turned to the Schuylkill as its source of water supply. By 1807 the river was dammed to increase its navigability because it was an important commercial waterway. The Assembly safeguarded the purity of the stream by the Acts of April 12, 1828, P. L. 413; March 26, 1832, March 31, 1860, P. L. 476; February 12, 1861, P. L. 30; March 26, 1867, and March 15, 1871, under which last the acquisition of Fairmount Park was authorized and the Fairmount Park Commission established. All these Acts declare the protection of Philadelphia's water supply a prime purpose. But, although subsequently upstream communities also took, water from the Schuylkill, neither we nor they followed out the plan of preserving the purity by maintaining its banks as parks. Instead industries were permitted to locate thereon. Disregarding the experiences of Europe, we emptied our sewage and industries poured their poisons into our water supply. At first no ill effects were apparent. So, for years towns and cities grew, vomited their filth, mines and factories spewed their poisons into the once wholesome waters of this stream.


In the late [18]90s, a day of reckoning arrived. Disease raised its hideous head. Typhoid fever stalked through Philadelphia. The death rate mounted rapidly. (Note No.1) Investigation disclosed the appalling truth that the typhoid fever was coming from Schuylkill water. The people demanded relief. The Sewage Act of 1905 was the answer. As first drafted the Act barred both industrial and municipal sewage pollution. But mines and tanneries were on the watch. They succeeded in writing into the bill in committee an express exemption of their particular pollution. Before the bill was finally passed the provisions relating to industrial pollution were all stricken out, so that the Act was limited to sewage defined to be excrementitious discharge from humans and animals. The exemption of the mines and tanneries still remains in the Act, but is meaningless, and has no relation thereto, because the Act is limited to excrementitious discharges.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia proceeded with the erection of its filtration plants which remove the colon bacilli and the typhoid peril. But the practice of cleaning the pollution out of a stream after it is put in, instead of keeping it out, is and remains indefensible. Because the Sewage Act of 1905 failed to prohibit discharge of industrial waste into the river, municipalities shirked their duty to install sewage disposal plants. Why should millions of dollars of taxpayers' money be spent to clean up streams which industry continued to use as private sewers, was the natural question which officials asked. Thus we had the formation of the vicious circle; the industries and municipalities each saying to the other "you clean up first," with the result that neither performed their duty.


The poor Schuylkill daily became worse. It was loaded far beyond its ability to assimilate and digest impurities, natural or unnatural. Coal mines poured their poisonous sulphuric acid into the upper reaches together with millions of tons of culm, which shallowed the channel, clogged the canal beds, destroyed navigability and reduced the volume of available water. The majesty of Nature departed, the tragedy of pollution held sway. Arrogance unrestrained defied the public. License, privilege, graft or greed, or progress itself if you please, no matter the cause, the inevitable arrived. A menace spread through the land, the scourge of disease was again on its way.

True enough, the Philadelphia filtration plants and chlorination process removes the colon bacilli and reduces typhoid fever, but as Dr. Haven Emerson recently pointed out, a load of 34,500 b.c. to 100 cubic centimeters of water is a dangerous load to put on our filtration beds. (Note No.2) We are inviting a recurrence of disaster. And, what about the industrial trade wastes that have become a part of the water in solution, which no filtration plant, no matter how carefully designed, can eliminate? Not only do they spoil the taste, but their irritating effect on human organs is now under grave suspicion by doctors who are studying the question. Whether the alarming increase in recent years of renal (kidney) disease, cardiac (heart) disease, gastric ulcers and cancer, has any relation to these trade wastes in solution, doctors will neither deny nor affirm, but it is high time that some scientific foundation like the Wister Institute or the Rockefeller Re search Institute, make an exhaustive study of this question. (Note No.3) The relation of trade waste in drinking water to human health must be clearly established.


Aside from this question, the citizens of Philadelphia became more and more dissatisfied with their Water supply. Frequently its taste and odor were so disgusting as actually to diminish the amount of water consumed, which in itself had a serious effect upon the public health. Every normal person must drink not less than five pints a day. But while public opinion, disorganized and lacking understanding, failed to take definite action, the sportsmen of our country with a clear vision saw the peril. Through their organizations, such as the Izaak Walton League, they spoke out openly and boldly. They challenged commercial greed in its lair. Of course, industrial spokesmen immediately charged that the sportsmen's interest in pure streams was a selfish one, and protested that industry should not be restricted merely because the sportsmen wanted better fishing; that the people must choose between fish and industry. What nonsense! Today it is fish, but tomorrow it will be millions of human beings who suffer.

Besides, no such choice is necessary. Both industry and fish can thrive side by side on the Schuylkill, as they do along the Rhine and other rivers that flow through industrial Europe. The restoration of fish to cleansed streams is going to be a by-product, an additional benefit, that will follow when their waters are purified for public health and comfort. The interest of the fisherman arises from his recognition of the simple biological truth that water in which fish cannot live is unfit for human beings. Outdoors people are in the van in this State-wide fight, only because they were the first to recognize the grave peril that lurks for the people if Nature's warning be further disregarded.


By 1927 when Mayor Mackey assumed office the condition of the Schuylkill River seemed hopeless. So foul had the stream become and so depleted of its oxygen content that no fish could live below the Norristown dam. Fish brought down to such waters by the freshets promptly died of poison and were strewn along the banks. The Schuylkill had become a fearful mixture. It contained pickling acids, phenolic and tar wastes, wool scourings, wash water from laundries, bleacheries and dye plants, slaughter house offal, paper mill waste and oil scum, all liberally thickened with coal culm. And Philadelphia taxpayers pay vast sums of money for filtration plants to clean out this mess.

The Sanitary Water Board under the previous gubernatorial administration had tacitly agreed to designate the Schuylkill a "class (c) stream," that is, one so hopelessly polluted as to be marked for abandonment and condemned to be an open sewer. It was suggested that Philadelphia should abandon this river as a source of water supply and go elsewhere. The nearest available source it was estimated would cost at least $100,000,000.00. The Sanitary Water Board took the position that it lacked the power to deal with industrial pollution, that all it could do was to urge the cessation thereof by moral suasion. Thus originated what was formerly called the "voluntary constructive cooperation with industry plan." More recently it has been termed the "Pennsylvania Plan," I presume because of its cunning appeal to State pride. This plan has been in force for six years. It consists in encouraging establishments in an industry to unite and contribute a fund for the purpose of experimenting on means of abating pollution. With this association a co-operative agreement is signed, the terms of which have never been made public.

Even though such an agreement may not expressly say so, its signatories assume that so long as the association keeps experimenting, the members thereof are permitted to dump waste into streams. Such agreements have been signed with the paper mill industry, with the tanneries, the coke producers, more recently with the soft coal mines, and perhaps one or two other classes. Theoretically, the plan is admirable. Practically, it is ineffective. For six years it has been in existence. No matter what good it may have accomplished, it has certainly not kept pace with the terrific increase of pollution (See recent survey of streams by the Alpine Association. Note No.4)


The fundamental error of this so-called Pennsylvania Plan is its implied concession that stream pollution is justifiable unless either the industry or the State can discover some practical method of waste disposal. Note the limitation of the word "practical." That is a terrible word. What does it mean? Some polluters seem to think unless they can make a profit out of their waste disposal plant, it is not practical. Then, again, it does not take into consideration the human equation. Unfortunately, many industries refuse to recognize their public duty. Others honestly accept their responsibility. Still others pretend to experiment, but in reality do nothing. No limitation in time is set upon their experiments, and this breaks down the whole scheme, for those who are willing are not fools enough to take up a burden so long as others doing nothing are not interfered with.


When Mayor Mackey took office he did not forget his pledge to the citizens of Philadelphia to give them a glass of clean water from every spigot. He referred to his pledge in his inaugural and stated in effect that he believed it was neither good business nor sound economics to abandon a water supply suitable by Nature as to quality, simply because those bordering its upper reaches persisted in using the same as a sewer, contrary to both law and good morals. He, therefore, gave his unqualified approval to the practical suggestion of his able City Solicitor, that before abandoning the Schuylkill a determined effort should be made to clean up that River by enforcing the existing law relating to pollution of public streams.

In April, 1928, the writer was invited by the City Solicitor with consent of the Mayor to become Special Counsel to conduct an investigation into the sources of pollution and bring such action as was possible under existing law to abate it. There were delegated to assist him various engineers of the City of Philadelphia and an Assistant City Solicitor, who act as an Advisory Committee or Commission to the Special Counsel. (Note No.5) This Commission meets every Wednesday afternoon at the City Solicitor's Office to consider the report of those investigating, collecting and analyzing samples of water.


Examination of the records already in the files of the Water Bureau, supplemented by field surveys, disclosed over 70 industries between the City of Philadelphia's first water intake at Shawmont and Norristown which were under grave suspicion. Careful investigation and analysis of their effluents eliminated all but about 30 of them, against one of which, a chemical company, whose pollution had been of long standing duration, an injunction suit in Equity was filed with consent of the Attorney General. To the others a letter was sent in which they were asked the following questions: (a) Whether they had formulated any plans or means to neutralize or treat their trade wastes; (b) What these plans were; (c) Within what time they would be carried out. The answer of some was entirely satisfactory. Some recognized their obligations manfully or realized that their position was indefensible both morally and legally and would not stand the test of Court proceedings. They outlined their plans, stated the approximate time within which they hoped to complete their installation and invited inspection thereof by the City's engineers.

Others answered evasively that they were co-operating with the State Sanitary Water Board. To these a second letter was addressed, stating that the time for generalities had passed, the City was entitled to know what they meant by co-operating, whether they were working on the problem of waste disposal or on the problem of waste reclamation. A third group did not answer at all or sent an arrogant reply in a "mind-your-own business" tone. This class were then bluntly told that their Pollution of streams was illegal, that they were in fact law-breakers,
(Note No.6) that while the City of Philadelphia would be patient and allow industries ample time in which to put their houses in order, it did not propose to tolerate a "public be damned" attitude, and that unless a satisfactory answer was received to the inquiry first addressed, application would be made to the Attorney General for leave to use the name of the Commonwealth to bring injunction proceedings.


Some feeble attempts were used to pull political strings, but both the Mayor and the City Solicitor stood firmly behind the City's Special Counsel and even such attempts soon ended. The whole valley was immediately stimulated into activity. Industries within borough limits of boroughs that had not yet proceeded with plans for erection of sewage disposal plants, used their powerful influence to persuade local authorities to undertake sewage disposal, hopeful that they might solve their own problem by emptying their trade waste into municipal sewers. In such cases the City required the industries to make application to their local authorities for permission to so connect. Other industries which had filtering apparatus and settling basins, but had permitted them to fall into disuse, repaired and restored them. Some frankly confessed that they had done nothing theretofore because other industries seemed to be getting away with it, so why should not they.
Meanwhile, the Sanitary Water Board sent peremptory orders to municipalities who had been lagging back in their sewage disposal program that further delay would not be tolerated. That activity of the Sanitary Water Board was highly commendable and of great aid.

The following are specific examples of some of the problems and how they were met.

This plant manufactured a hard fibre cardboard or paper. It used in its process of manufacture a powerful phenol distillate, the waste water of which is discharged into the Schuylkill. This waste was nauseating in odor and highly productive of a medicinal taste. (Note No.7) In and about its plant located on the banks of the river were strewn much taste-producing substances which every rain tended to wash into the stream. The plant was cleaned and the debris burned. The company proceeded at once to design a settling basin to collect the phenolic taste-producing liquid waste, hoping to evaporate the same. The use of indirect heat did not bring about the results hoped for. Direct heat was tried and also failed by reason of the tendency of the waste to solidify before it evaporated. Finally, the problem was solved by the simple expedient of pumping this waste directly into the fires, the waste being inflammable.

This plant discharged considerable coal dust from its coal pulverizing machinery directly into the stream. The General Manager of this plant called personally, admitted pollution, but stated frankly that he thought that inasmuch as the mines were allowed to let their coal culm into the river, there was no reason why the small amount from his plant should be objected to. When informed that it was the intention to clean up the river against the mines as well as other industries and that we were proceeding upstream, he gave assurance that he would at once proceed with the erection of a sedimentation basin and eliminate the nuisance complained of. His promise was kept.

This plant is a woolen mill which poured into the Bridgeport Canal wool scouring and dye liquor, making a high oxygen demand on the stream. (Note No.8) This Company was one of the first to accept without quibble its obligation to abate its pollution. It set about erecting a sedimentation basin, which after an experimental run of ten days, showed an astonishing amount of filth formerly passed into the Canal. So much in fact had been settled out that it was necessary to install a scoop to dig it out. This industry is now experimenting with this residue, which is high in animal grease, and is hopeful of extracting enough lanolin out of the waste to more than pay for the erection of the plant.

This worsted mill had installed a plant consisting of a series of centrifuges, one of which was imported from France, which eliminates the sand, grease and dirt and returns the water to the scouring tubs to be used again. This mill will also derive a return from sale of grease collected as well as make a substantial saving in soap and chemicals.

This paper mill had discontinued use of its save-alls (well known machine for reclaiming paper fibre out of process water). It insisted that it belonged to the paper mill association which had signed a cooperative agreement with the Sanitary Water Board and hence should be let alone. Finally after the Attorney General was asked for leave to bring injunction proceedings in the name of the Commonwealth, it rehabilitated its save-alls, made other improvements taking care of its drainage and reduced the organic material with high oxygen demand going into the stream from 25 p.p.m. to 5 p.p.m. Moreover, enough paper fibre is recovered to fill two beaters (about 1,000 pounds a day).

Another paper mill that had been discharging 2,000,000 gallons per day of white water into the streams with an oxygen demand of 250 parts per million, which means that to overcome the oxygen demand of this effluent upon the stream it required 60,000,000 gallons of river water, (a serious condition when it is realized that the minimum flow of the Schuylkill River is 180,000,000 gallons per day and during the period of low flow is frequently less) also objected to dealing with the City on the ground that it was a member of the paper mill combine and as such protected by the agreement with the Sanitary Water Board. It even sent its Attorney to Harrisburg to argue against the McCrossin Bill. It finally yielded and improved its process so that the oxygen demand, judging from recent samples, has been reduced from 250 p.p.m. to 2 p.p.m. In other words, instead of throwing a load on the River which formerly took 60,000,000 gallons of river water a day to overcome, it now requires less than 1,000,000. This industry while at first antagonistic has Come to realize that the City of Philadelphia is not unreasonable in its demands and that it will give every industry time so long as it will progressively install apparatus to improve its effluents.

A cotton goods mill whose effluents and dye waste made an unusual oxygen demand on the stream, one effluent having a biochemical oxygen demand as high as 5900 p.p.m. By reason of firm insistence that other means of disposal be used, the effluents now going into the river show a b.o.d. of less than 3 p.p.m.

A boiler and tank manufactory formerly discharged into the river deleterious pickling acid waste with a high b.o.d. of 950 parts per million and an acidity of 20,600 which has been so far neutralized as to show an alkalinity of 60 p.p.m. while the b.o.d. has been reduced more than one-half, with further improvements promised, all by reason of the City's threatened action. So examples might be multiplied.

Meanwhile, the injunction proceedings against the Chemical Company came to trial and after the third witness on behalf of the City and State was called the defendant's counsel submitted to a decree requiring certain safeguards to be installed in the plant to keep the taste producing substances out of the tributary of the Schuylkill, to clean up the debris rank with taste producing substances, which had been complied with. This Company has, moreover, now become a supporter of the Schuylkill clean-up movement.

A slaughter house, which with several other polluters on the same Canal together with the owners of the Canal, was included in the petition for use of the name of the Commonwealth which the present Attorney General refused, was made the defendant in a suit by the State which was brought at the time the McCrossin Bill was pending in Legislature. The McCrossin Bill was designed to permit local communities to protect their water supply by using the name of the State without first having to ask leave of the Attorney General. About the time that this Bill came before the Committee for a hearing, the State brought suit against this slaughterhouse. It was thought by many of the friends of the Pure Streams Bill it was done to justify the argument of the polluters that the State Sanitary Water Board would bring suits when they thought it necessary. The case was important for two reasons: First, because it marked a complete change of attitude of the Sanitary Water Board, which under the previous Administration had insisted it had no power to deal with industrial pollution and could not bring actions to restrain them; and second, because as is usually the case, the industries in question surrendered when Court action was taken. This defendant stopped slaughtering and now merely packs the pork which is slaughtered elsewhere. A most offensive discharge of animal offal, etc., that existed for thirty years, is at last ended.


Meanwhile, the Borough of Bridgeport has finished its sewage disposal plant and every industry located on the Bridgeport Canal with the exception of one has either abated its pollution or so treated its waste disposal as to render it comparatively unobjectionable. The remaining industry has retained a reputable firm of engineers to design and draw up plans for its treatment plant. The Bridgeport Canal was one of the worst spots in the vicinity of Philadelphia. It had been permitted to become little more than a cesspool, composed of deleterious trade wastes and slaughterhouse offal as well as sewage. This Canal was periodically flushed into the Schuylkill and was an ever-present menace to the purity of its water. A comparative test made by the Commission of the water at the entrance of the Canal and at the end demonstrates the following shocking condition of affairs:

It is expected that as soon as the Borough of Bridgeport's sewage disposal plant is working to capacity (for all sewage is not yet connected therewith) there will be a remarkable improvement in the water of this Canal, with a consequent effect on the River. The condition of the river is now much improved over what it was before May of 1928. The best evidence of the fact is that in the vicinity of Shawmont Intake fish (bass and catfish) have been caught from the stream. These are the first fish caught in that vicinity for upwards of 15 years. The return of fish to the stream is proof of improvement in the dissolved oxygen content of the river and corresponding purification.

Results so far warrant the prediction that the Schuylkill River can be restored and pollution abated by the methods employed. The industries have done their part. So have some of the municipalities, such as Reading and Bridgeport. Other municipalities that are lagging behind must be spurred on.


The next source of pollution to take up after the few remaining recalcitrant industries have been dealt with is the coal culm pollution. (Note No.9) This we owe to the industries and to the people. The coal culm pollution throws a heavy burden on the water works of communities farther upstream who have to settle out the solids of the mines at the expense of the water consumers. The results quoted above show that it can be done, but the way to do it is not by co-operative agreements, but by firm insistence that the right of the public to decent and clean water is far superior to the profits of the polluters. The industries themselves now realize that they have much at stake in the success of this clean-up, for if all industries join in and do their part, much money now spent in treating water before it can be used in industrial processes will be saved. Such savings will more than balance the cost of waste disposal plants.

Our experience with the Schuylkill River is the same as that in England. One of the pamphlets issued by the Pure River Society, an organization which like our Izaak Walton League has dedicated itself to the task of stimulating public opinion to a recognition of the horror of stream pollution, quotes an extract of a discussion of the English National Association of Fishery Boards on the question of how best to stop pollution, which shows that vigorous insistence on observance of the law has been found the most effective means. To quote from the proceedings: Major R. R. Gladstone said: "In his district they had found the only way to stop specific cases of pollution was to prosecute. They had about fifteen prosecutions of various factories in the last half dozen years. In all these cases with one exception they had not had any trouble since." The Chairman, Mr. Charles Collier (of the Executive Board) said: "He thought that this was the result that nearly everyone had experienced. Whenever they had taken action against a local authority the nuisance that had been complained of had been abated."


The work which has been thus far satisfactorily carried on has demonstrated that City Solicitor Ashton and Mayor Mackey were right in their method of attacking the problem. It is now time to proceed further upstream and for this purpose it is necessary for all communities to work jointly together. The Chestnut Street Business Men's Association of Philadelphia has taken the enlightened attitude of organizing a Schuylkill River Board to stimulate public opinion and to speed up the erection of municipal disposal plants. The Borough of Bridgeport has done much. The City of Reading and the industries therein and nearby are also entitled to great credit for the improvement of their section of the river. Time has come for the movement to be extended upstream, for the power of public opinion is becoming daily more impressive.

What a model this work is for communities elsewhere in the State of Pennsylvania, which have seen their streams gradually become vile, black, evil-smelling water flowing between dead flowerless banks, with poisoned fish floating on its surface; which have seen the health of their people living nearby begin to suffer or experience the vile, nauseous smells from the gasses bubbling up from the oozy bottom, and have seen their river, once a thing of joy and beauty, a vivifier of large valley lands, a treasure of inestimable value, die. Even sheep, horses and cattle have been killed by drinking from poisoned waters and in times of flood the poisonous pollution is carried far and wide over grazing and agricultural land and into cisterns and wells.

We have seen a condition arising where it is no longer safe for children to bathe in the public streams. All this evil can be stopped. The rivers can be cleaned, but it will not be done by giving "lip service to cleanliness," or by laws timidly conceived, timidly worded and yet more timidly enforced. But a single law is needed. That is an Act like the McCrossin Bill, which though defeated at the last Session of the Legislature, must again be presented to the next and next until it finally succeeds. Though the "Four Horsemen of Pollution," the coal mines, paper mills, oil refineries and tanneries, succeeded in suppressing it in Committee at the last Session, it will eventually succeed because it is founded upon truth and logic.

With this Act on the statute books, every community can protect itself. The burden unfairly placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayers will be removed, the future health and prosperity of the State assured. If the people will it, it can be done.


By resolutions unanimously adopted at the annual meeting of Pennsylvania Division, Izaak Walton League of America, Waynesburg, September 9, 1929, Mr. Ladner's address was ordered printed, and the McCrossin-Lose Pure Streams Bill was approved for re-introduction in the General Assembly of 1931. The Conservation Council of Pennsylvania took similar action on the bill at its seventh annual meeting, May 20, 1929, at Wilkes-Barre.

Best use of this booklet is to place this State-wide issue squarely before hold-over members of the State Senate and all candidates for Senator and for Member of the House to be nominated at the Spring primaries and elected in November, 1930. Every candidate should be asked: WILL YOU, IF NOMINATED AND ELECTED, SUPPORT AND VOTE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE McCROSSIN-LOSE PURE STREAMS BILL?

Analysis and Explanation of Pure Streams Act
(McCrossin Senate Bill No. 592, 1929 Session)


relating to the pollution of waters of the Commonwealth, and providing additional remedies for the abatement thereof, and conferring jurisdiction upon certain courts in relation thereto.

SECTION I. POLLUTION NOT A NATURAL USE OF WATERS. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That the discharge of sewage or industrial waste or any other noxious or deleterious substances by any person, copartnership, association, or corporation, whether public or private, into the waters of the Commonwealth is hereby declared not to be a reasonable or natural use of such waters, and to be inimical and injurious to the public health, and to animal and aquatic life, and to the uses thereof for industrial consumption, and to be against the public policy of the Commonwealth, and to be a public and common nuisance.

This Section is declaratory of existing law: Penna. Railroad Co. vs. Sagamore Coal Co., 281 Pa. 233: Howell vs. McCoy, 3 Rawle 256. When the public is affected it is also a crime: Commonwealth vs. Soulas, 16 Phila. 525.

SEC. 2. ABATEMENT OF POLLUTION. All pollution hereinbefore declared to be nuisances shall be abatable in the manner now provided by law or equity for the abatement of public nuisances. In addition to existing rights and remedies, proceedings to abate such nuisances may be instituted in equity or at law in the name of the Commonwealth upon relation of the Attorney General or upon relation of any district attorney of any county or upon the relation of the solicitor of any municipality affected. Such proceedings may be brought and prosecuted in the courts of common pleas of the county where the nuisance has been committed or the pollution is maintained or of any county through which or along the border of which water flows, into which such pollution has been discharged at any point above, and for such purposes jurisdiction is hereby conferred in law and equity upon said courts.

This Section is designed to enable communities to guard their water supply. For this reason, the right to sue in the name of the commonwealth is defined to include the solicitor of any municipality. It follows the precedent of the padlock provision of the Snyder Act, Act of March 27, 1923, P.L. 34. The Attorney General now has the right: See Commonwealth vs. Russell, 172 Pa. 506. The District Attorney probably has the right: See Act of 1850, P. L. 654, and the City Solicitor ought to have the right because stream pollution in many cases is a local problem. The granting of jurisdiction upon the courts of the county affected by the pollution is nothing new, since the Act of July 10, 1901, P. L. 637, gives the court of common pleas of any county jurisdiction in any case to which the Commonwealth is a party.

SEC. 3. PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION. In case where the circumstances require it, or the public health is endangered, a mandatory preliminary injunction or special injunction may be issued upon the terms prescribed by the court, notice of the application therefor having been given to the defendant in accordance with the rules of equity practice, and in any such case the Attorney General, the district attorney, or the solicitor of any municipality, shall not be required to give bond.

This Section is designed to cover cases of emergency, and will so be limited by the courts. These emergencies frequently arise as for example a case in the central part of the State where a purchaser of an abandoned tannery, instead of carting away the poisonous tannery liquor contained in the vats, opened the valves and emptied them into a tributary of the Loyalsock.

SEC. 4. EXISTING RIGHTS PRESERVED. Nothing in this act contained shall be construed so as to in any way abridge the rights of action or remedies now existing in equity or under common law or statutory law, criminal or civil.

This Section makes it plain that all other existing rights of action or remedies are preserved.

Click links to return to text

The lin on footnote 8 does not link back to page.
If anyone could tell me why this one des not work while the rest, written exactly the same, do work, I would appreciate it.
I spent too much of a Saturday afternoon trying to fix this one problem, and I give up for now.

Note No. 1--In 1901 the death rate reached 444 (Please note this is the death rate and not merely the number of cases of typhoid fever). In the year of 1906 there were 1003 deaths, i.e., 78.8 per hundred thousand population. In 1907 filtration began and thereafter chlorination. The death rate in 1928 from typhoid was but 0.8 per hundred thousand population.

Note No. 2--Dr. Haven Emerson made a health survey of Philadelphia for the Chamber of Commerce. In his report he said, "There is what is known as the Great Lakes Standard & Ohio River Standard...as to the amount of pollution allowable in water before it goes into the purifying plant. The number of colon bacilli in the Great Lakes Standard is 2,000. In Ohio River it is 5,000. But at the Torresdale plant (on the Delaware) it is 25,000 and at the intake on the Schuylkill it is 34,500.

Note No. 3--Since the above was penned, the writer has been informed such an investigation is about to be undertaken by the University of West Virginia al Morgantown, W. Va. Major Michael Blew, Philadelphia's Research Engineer, has suggested a comparative study of the morbidity tables and sources of water supply supplemented by laboratory experiments with white rats.

Note No. 4--This survey was comp1eted March 1, 1929, and shows that since June 1927, there has been 3.9 per cent increase of streams unfitted for human consumption.

Note No. 5--The members of the Advisory Commission are John Elcock, Assistant City Solicitor; Seth Van Loan, Deputy Chief of Water Bureau; Michael J. Blew, City's Research Engineer; Lyle Jenne, Sanitary Engineer; George Schaut, Chief Chemist; Thorpe, Chemist; Samuel Crawford, Bacteriologist; Thomas Kinslow, Asst.

Note No. 6--Stream pollution is a common law crime indictable in Pennsylvania. See Commonwealth vs. Soulas, 10 Phila. 525; Barclay vs. Commonwealth, 25 Pa 205.

Note No. 7--This medicinal taste occurs after the water has passed the filters and has been chlorinated, and is distinctly noticeable in the tap water of Philadelphia homes.

Note No. 8--The oxygen demand on streams, technically known as biochemical oxygen demand and habitually abbreviated b.o.d, is the most satisfactory method known of measuring the harm done to a stream by organic pollution. All pure stream water contains dissolved oxygen in the proportion of about 8 parts of oxygen to 1,000,000 parts of water. It is the action of this dissolved oxygen on the organic impurities going into the stream that enables the water to purify itself. Normally, running water replenishes from the air the dissolved oxygen that has been used up by organic impurities cast therein. Obviously, the more dissolved oxygen a given impurity requires, the more demand it makes on the stream. Consequently, quality as well as quantity of impurities must be measured when examining a stream. When the pollution load cast on the stream is greater than its ability to replenish the same, then we have a condition of a dying river which soon becomes nothing less than a sewer.

Note No. 9--This is clearly illegal, both under the Act of June 27, 1918, P. L. 640, which makes the discharge into or deposit of culm so near that it would be likely to slide or be washed into a stream, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $100 for each offense and $50 a day for each day the offense is maintained, or imprisonment, or both; moreover, under the general law of nuisance, a Court in Equity can enjoin such pollution. See the case of the Commonwealth & City of Phila. vs. Reading Coal & Iron Co. Supreme Court of Pa. (Miscel. Docket No. 1, No. 246) Decree entered, but case not reported.


Back to

Website by Panacea Design and Adam Levine
Page last modified April 30, 2005