This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
If the drain is proved to be the cause of pollution, it must be taken up, and a new and sound one constructed. The ground around the well, and the wall of the well, must be removed to a depth below the evidences of pollution, the wall rebuilt with new material, and fresh puddle and earth placed outside it. The well must then be pumped dry, the walls below the new upper portion scrubbed and the sludge at the bottom removed. If the water is afterwards allowed to rise to its usual height, and again pumped out, and this is repeated three or four times, the well will probably be once more fit for use.
If. however, the paraffin-test does not give any clue to the source of pollution, and the walls of the well are found to be foul on one particular side, and that aide opposite a midden, it may be fairly concluded that leakage from the midden is the cause. Treatment of the well as before, together with removal of the midden and soil under it. may restore the well to purity, but the absolute and immediate purification of a midden-polluted well is, it must be confessed, well-nigh impossible because of the greater diffusion of the polluting material. It will usually be safer to dig a new well on a fresh and unpolluted site, and to fill up the spoilt one with earth.
It may be opportune here to remark, that a polluted well, the water of which is not used, may be, and often undoubtedly is, a nuisance, especially when it is near a house, or, as is sometimes the case, actually within it. It may be that when the well was found to be contaminated, it was closed without a search being made for the cause of pollution. If this were a leaky drain, the well is (or was) actually a cesspool receiving the whole or part of the sewage of the house. In case the drain remains unsound, a smoke-test may reveal the perhaps now forgotten existence of the old well, but not if it has been made good since the closure. When careful examination of plumber's work, and severe drain-tests, fail to reveal the causes of ailments which are known to be due to insanitary conditions, some such nuisance as this may well be suspected, and neither expense nor inconvenience should avail to prevent a thorough search being made for it.
The Sanitary Inspector, however is almost entirely unsupported by law, when insisting on the pursuance of such a course. His legal duty is to declare the cause of nuisance and suggest the remedy1: if the former is unknown, the
1That it is not necessary for a Sanitary Inspector to suggest a remedy for a nuisance has recently been settled, as the following extract from The Manchester Guardian, Jan. 22, 1898, will show: - "A point which has often been raised in connection with prosecutions for the emission of black smoke has just been settled by
Mr. Justice Day sad Mr. Justice Lawrence, sitting as a Divisional Court, in the appeal of Millard v. Wastall.
The respondeat was prosecuted under the Public Health Act of 1875 for having committed a nuisance by permitting black smoke to be discharged from his chimney, but the magistrates dismissed the information on an objection that the notice on which it was founded did not specify the works which had to be carried out in order to remedy the nuisance The Public Health Act provides that the Local Authority shall serve a person causing a nuisance with a notice requiring him to abate the same within a time to be specified in the notice, and to execute such works and do such things as may be necessary for that purpee. Read loosely, this might seem to intend specifying of the works to he executed, but doner examination shows it not to be so, and the judges bad no hesitation latter is impossible. And he has no power to enforce the tearing up of floors for making speculative search. If ill-health were thought to be occasioned by something giving off a distinct smell, but the cause of which was beyond his ordinary means of discovery the powers of the Housing of the Working Classes A 1890, if this has been adopted in the district, might be used (although, by its title, this statute may be said to apply only to workmen's dwellings), but the gases from the well under consideration are often unperceivable by the sense of smell, and in such a case the Sanitary Authority is utterly powerless to interfere.
It sometimes happens that, because of the frequent sickness of the occupants, a house gets, as it is called, a "bad name ", and that the owner will seek the assistance of the Sanitary Inspector, who will then do well to remember this possible cause of offence. Sounding the floors, if of flags, may sometimes indicate a spot for successful examination, but when the flags are supported upon dwarf walls, the operation is useless. It may even be advisable to recommend the entire removal of the floor (usually a basement one), and a thorough examination with pick and shovel.
The contamination of a public water-supply will be considered under three divisions: -
(l.) At the source.
(2.) In the mains.
(3.) In the service-pipes and house.
The term "pure", applied to water used for domestic purposes, must be understood as being used in a qualified sense, as no water is absolutely pure, except that which has undergone careful distillation. Contamination, of course, here means the avoidable addition to the water of deleterious matter.
(1.) Water may be contaminated at the source in gathering grounds (when cultivated lands are included in their area) by the admission of flood-waters to the reservoir, especially such as are caused by sudden downpours of rain (as thunder-storms) succeeding periods of comparative dryness. These waters may be highly charged with pollutions from cattle-droppings and from manure. The former may be present even when farm-lands are not included in the contributory portion of the basin, but where animals are allowed to graze on the moors surrounding the reservoir. It should be the duty of an attendant to direct all such floods into the by-passes provided.