Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 5:15 PM
STUDIES OF GROUND-WATER POLLUTION, 1899-1945
As C.W. Fetter has pointed out, professional interest in ground-water pollution is not uniquely a post-1960 phenomenon in the United States. The unsavory effects of well-water pollution from nearby cesspools has been noted in Europe for more than 300 years. The danger of pathogens in well water was proved about 150 years ago by the British physician John Snow. It was logical, therefore, that a number of individuals in the newly formed U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had an interest in pollution. This was particularly true of Myron L. Fuller, who wrote a number of papers and supervised many of the early ground-water studies undertaken by the USGS. Judging by the contents of Water-Supply Papers, early studies of ground-water pollution in the USGS peaked during the years 1905 to 1911. Among identified sources of pollution were oil-field brines, street runoff, farm animals, agricultural fertilizers, domestic sewage, seawater, oil from leaking storage tanks, and industrial effluents. After Oscar E. Meinzer became chief of the Ground-Water Branch of the USGS, the number of references to pollution diminished rapidly. Discussions of pollution in Water-Supply Papers were absent during Meinzer's last 19 years of tenure (1927-1946).