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INVESTIGATIONS OF COMPLAINTS RELATING TO
The discharge into the watercourses of this State of sewage, garbage, industrial wastes, and other refuse is the source of many complaints made each year to the Department. These complaints usually come from property owners and other persons adversely affected by these nuisances. Very often requests for assistance and advice in dealing with these cases of stream pollution come from local boards of health or village officials.
Where such procedure is feasible the complaints are referred to local boards of health for suitable action under the Public Health Law but in many cases it becomes necessary for the Engineering Division to make a careful investigation and prepare a report describing the conditions found to exist and the extent to which they give rise to the nuisance or menace to health. Such report containing conclusions and recommendations as to the remedial measures which should be taken is then transmitted to the local authorities. In most cases this is all that is necessary to secure an immediate abatement of the nuisances, but where necessary, legal action is taken for preventing the pollution of streams to the detriment of the public health.
The reports upon the more important of such cases which came before this Department during 1917 are given below and a list is also appended of all other cases.
HERMANN M. BIGGS, M.D., State Commissioner of Health:
I beg to submit the following report on an investigation of the alleged insanitary conditions at Butterfield lake, Jefferson county, N. Y. The investigation was made as a result of complaints received at this Department with reference to the pollution of Butterfield lake by the discharge of sink drainage, sewage and garbage from the cottages situated on the lake. The inspection was made on October 10, 1917, by Mr. Albert I. Howd, inspecting engineer in this Department, in company with Dr. J. E. Ryan, health officer at Redwood, in the town of Alexandria, Jefferson county, N. Y.
Butterfield lake, which is about 3 miles long and 34 of a mile wide, is located in the northwestern part of Jefferson count in the towns of Theresa and Alexandria. The town line extends northeast through the lake with the result that about half of the lake lies in each town. There are about 58 cottages scattered around the shores of and the islands of the lake, they so on the east side of the lake than on the west side. On the west side the soil is generally sandy or gravelly and not so hilly as on the east side. There are several islands in the lake and most of them have camps on them. It is said that the land surrounding the lake is abundant with springs and most of the campers utilize these sources of potable water. Water for general household purposes is obtained in most instances from the lake, nearly all the camps having pipes running from the lake to the camps through which water is pumped.
The majority of the camps have privies located a short distance from them, this being so at 30 out of about 38 camps. At 4 camps privies were located directly over the lake and at 13 more camps the privies were 50 feet or less from the lake. Eleven privies were found which were more than 50 feet from the lake. Inside toilet facilities were found at six camps of which number, 4 evidently treat their sewage in cesspools and the remaining two discharge their sewage through castiron pipes into the lake. At two other camps it was assumed that sink wastes discharge into the lake inasmuch as lead pipes were found leading down to the lake from the camps.
As nearly all the camps were unoccupied at the time of the inspection it could not be definitely learned how the garbage and refuse from the camps are disposed of. At one camp on Buck island, however, namely that of Anna Dyer, of Redwood, N. Y., garbage and empty tin cans had been thrown into the lake.
At present Butterfield lake is by no means congested with camps and there is ample space for extension. There are a couple of camps now in course of construction. Although the extent of sewage discharged into the lake at present appears to create no nuisance, nevertheless some other method should be used in disposing of the sewage such as by cesspools, or settling tanks with subsurface irrigation. It also appears from the inspection that some garbage and rubbish are being thrown into the lake. This practice should be discontinued and the garbage and rubbish be disposed of by some other method, such as by burying. The majority of the privies were in an insanitary condition, nearly all of them being provided with no vault and being open and readily accessible to flies. The privies therefore, should be made fly-tight and provided with vaults. The sewage from a few places in the village of Redwood, such as the hotel Dollinger, is discharged through private drains so that the sewage eventually finds its way into the lake, although the village is quite some distance away. These places should discontinue such discharge and use some other method of disposal such as by cesspools or settling tanks with subsurface irrigation. The village has no sewer system, most of the properties being provided with privies.
As a result of this investigation I would suggest that the local boards of health of the towns of Theresa and Alexandria be advised to enforce the following requirements and changes in conditions at Butterfield lake:
1. That no sewage or sink waste shall be discharged into Butterfield lake;
2. That no garbage or rubbish shall be discharged into Butterfield lake;
3. That no privies, unless provided with removable water tight containers, shall be located within 25 feet, horizontal measurement, of Butterfield lake;
4. That all privies shall be made fly-tight and provided with vaults;
5. That sewer pipes from the village of Redwood, which eventually discharge sewage into Butterfield lake, shall be disconnected and the sewage disposed of in cesspools or settling tanks with subsurface irrigation.
I further recommend that copies of this report be transmitted to the complainants and to the local boards of health of the towns of Theresa and Alex andria and that the local boards of health be urged to take immediate steps to carry out the recommendations of this report.
Chief Engineer ALBANY, N. Y., October 16, 1917
Copies of this report were enclosed in letters addressed to the local boards of health and to the complainants.
HERMANN M. BIGGS, M.D., State Commissioner of Health:
I beg to submit the following report on an investigation of an alleged nuisance in the town of Colonie, caused by the pollution of the Lisha Kill creek, near Karners on the New York Central railroad. The inspection was made on October 29, 1917, by Mr. Albert I. Howd, inspecting engineer in this Department, in company with Mr. H. J. Mather of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. H. C. Abrams, Grant Newcomb, John J. Brown and J. G. Hills, members of the local board of health of the town of Colonie.
It is alleged that the pollution of the creek took place about two years ago at the time of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. The pollution of the creek resulted from the dumping of a thick, heavy, tarry substance near the edge of the creek. The pile of material is at present about 60 feet long, about 15 feet wide and has a varying depth of about 5 to 10 feet and is partly covered with cinders. The deposited substance is quite hard on the surface but just underneath the surface it is soft and tar like and has a very noticeable bituminous and oily tar odor. The water of the creek near the dump appeared very oily when agitated and had an oily odor.
This alleged nuisance was first brought to the attention of this Department on December 8, 1916, when a Mr. Joseph Finley, representing himself and other residents of the town of Colonie, near Lisha Kill, called at the Department and conferred with Mr. Horton in reference to this nuisance. Mr. Finley was advised at that time as to the proper procedure to take for the abatement of this nuisance but evidently the matter was dropped by him inasmuch as the Department has no record of anything being done.
A branch of the Lisha Kill mentioned above flows near the dump and then flows north and east for about 12 or 34 of a mile where it joins the main stream. During its course the creek flows across the property of Joseph Finley, John Meachan and John Cole in the order named, the Cole property being about one mile from the dump. On this property the creek appeared clear and showed no visible signs of pollution. No oil appeared on the surface of the creek and no sediment of a tarry nature could be detected on the creek bed. The land near the creek is low and water had settled in some of these low places. The creek overflows its banks occasionally and floods this low land. At some of these low spots, oil appeared on the surface of the water and the water had an oily odor similar to that detected near the dump.
Mr. Cole, who is an unlicensed veterinarian, alleges that he had a colt pastured in the field near the creek and about four weeks ago the colt died. He stated that the hair from the colt's legs just above the hoofs had come off, caused by the colt going into the oily water. He also alleges that the hair came off from his other stock whenever they came in contact with the oily water, and that they refused to eat the hay cut near the creek.
As a result of this investigation, I conclude:
1. That a mass of material of a tarry nature has been dumped from cars of the N. Y. C. R. R. near the Lisha Kill about 212 miles northwest of Karners:
2. That the drainage from this material finds its way into the creek and causes continuous pollution;
3. That as a result of this pollution, alleged injury and loss to property has occurred;
4. That this mass of material constitutes a nuisance and the nuisance can most properly be abated by removing the material. I, therefore, recommend that in view of this pollution of the Lisha Kill the mass of material which is causing such pollution be removed from its present location.
I further recommend that copies of this report be sent to the local board of health of the town of Colonie and to the N. Y. C. R. R. Co., and that they be urged to carry out the recommendations of this report.
Chief Engineer ALBANY, N. Y., November 14, 1917
Copies of this report were sent to the local board of health and to the N. Y, C. R. R. Co., urging them to carry out the recommendations of the report.
HERMANN M. BIGGS, M.D., State Commissioner of Health:
I beg to submit the following report on an investigation of the alleged pollution of the Hudson river by the discharge of oil from the plant of the Rail Joint Co., at Troy, made at your direction and as the result of a complaint referred to this Department by the Commissioner of Public Works of the city of Albany.
This complaint alleged that large quantities of oil entered the river through the sewer of the plant of the Rail Joint Co. at Troy. The inspection was made by Mr. C. A. Holmquist, assistant engineer in this Department on June 5, 1917.
The plant of the Rail Joint Co. is situated in what is locally known as South Troy in the southern part of the city of Troy on the east side of the Hudson river. The home office of the company is at 61 Broadway and Mr. E. Y. Weber of New York is president of the company, Mr. W. J. Bradley is the local manager and superintendent and Mr. M. J. Maloney is assistant superintendent of the Troy plant.
This plant, it was learned, has been in operation for more than 50 years at the present site and has been under the present management for from 12 to 15 years. The company manufactures rail joints of various shapes from steel ingots at this plant. Although coal is used as fuel at the power plant the two furnaces in which the ingots and shapes are heated are fired with fuel oil.
It was learned at the time of the inspection that the discharge of oil in large quantities into the Hudson river through the sewer from this plant was recently called to the attention of the local manager of the company by the government engineers who were making a survey of the river opposite the plant. As the result of this an investigation was made by the company which showed that a leak existed in the oil force main which leads to one of the furnaces of the plant of the Rail Joint Co. and that some 150 gallons