How Cities Have Historically Solved Public Sanitation Problems

How Cities Have Historically Solved Public Sanitation Problems

Looking back in history, one of the most problematic issues that citizens faced was the development of sanitation systems. Around 2000 BC, ancient Indo-Aryans used boiling and filtering systems for water purification. By 460 BC, hygiene became a critical social concept to the Greeks because of Hippocrates who developed his medical knowledge to prevent disease.

By 100 BC, the Romans built aqueducts that supplied clean, fresh water that was piped directly to the homes of its wealthy citizens, bathhouses, and public fountains. Their system enhanced cleanliness and sanitation. It also improved waste disposal because of a proper sewer system.

During the same period, The Yellow Emperor’s Treatise defined the importance of prevention over cures which brought about social change to Ancient Chinese cities. Water cleanliness, filtering, and waste removal by the sanitary police led to improved sanitation techniques.

In the 1340s, the Black Death affected millions of English and Asian citizens. Trash littered the streets which led to an infestation of rats and fleas. By 1665, a second bout of the plague hit England and killed ten percent of its citizens. Cholera outbreaks were also problematic.

England expanded its public health and sanitation projects by cleaning the Thames, hiring public sanitation workers, and relocating waste from the city to less populated areas. The city officials also built thousands of miles of sewer lines that ran underground.

By the 1700s, Japanese citizens began to use sewage as fertilizer to minimize the pollution into water systems. By the 1800s, English cities were growing in population, but the techniques for sanitation removal were not which led to polluted rivers and waterways. Along with the waste and garbage in the water came health reform that led to public privies and sewer receptacles.

By 1866, the Public Health Act led to a Sanitary Act that made local authorities culpable for sanitation enforcement and regulation which included water supply, sewage, and housing. The local governments also instituted penalties for anyone caught endangering public safety.

By 1854, Dr. John Snow proved that contaminated water spread cholera. The information led to the invention of the first septic tank which removed waste. By 1865, sewer had once again become a major concern in New York after contaminated waste lined the streets.

In the nineteenth century, sewer systems were in many US and European homes. Unfortunately, the waste was untreated and released in waterways. It led to more experimentation including sedimentation, farming projects, filtration, and chemical treatment.

On January 19, 1900, the black plague hit Sydney which led to multiple deaths over eight months. By 1925, there were 12 significant outbreaks which city professionals later connected to fleas that carried Yersinia pestis. The city responded by demolishing slum areas, lime-washing streets, removing thousands of dead animals, and burning tons of garbage.

An American, MS Wells, responded to the issues by creating a patent for garbage compactors in 1941. Initially, it was meant for crushing cans. It was not until the 1970s that John Boyd created the trash compactor that most American and European cities still use today.

Plumbing systems are still critical to public health and sanitation which is why we advise you to have regular maintenance checks. Call 781-944-8043 or visit us on facebook at .

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