Washington University, St. LouisEngineering

History of Environmental Engineering

Environmental Engineering
"One of World's Oldest Professions"
Presented by
Charles A. Buescher Jr., PE, DEE

"Everything seems new if you are ignorant of history" (1). With that as a preamble I would like to discuss with you our profession, the fields of sanitation and public health; the roots of today's field of Environmental Engineering. Our profession has had a long history and has long been associated with the medical fields. I want to share with you today how our profession developed and also the many contributions by the faculty and alumni of Washington University.

Early History
In early Egyptian Civilizations (2) excavations have been found, showing arrangements were made for the collection of rainfall as well as the use of copper pipe for the disposal of sewage. This dates from 3400-2450 B.C. Irrigation was also widely used later during the new Egyptian Empire 1580-1200 B.C.

The Knossian (2) (3) (4) or the Minoan civilization was located in the Aegean Sea on the Isle of Crete and flourished between 1850-1400 B.C. This island is now a part of Greece. Excavations have revealed evidence of devices for sanitation, ventilation, drainage and latrines. The Queen even had a bathtub.

In early Greek history, (2) (3) there are many instances of sanitation and medicine being used. Temples located near springs and woodlands hills were used as Sanatoria and health resorts. These can be seen today at Epidauros on the Peloponese peninsular in southern Greece. Today this still remains a beautiful place and has one of the world's finest acoustical (non-electric) theatres still in use seating 14,000 persons.

For protection, the Greek populace lived near fortified heights. These fortresses are referred to as Acropolises, and located throughout the Greek Empire. The most famous is the Acropolis in Athens, where the Parthenon is located. All of these areas required protected water supplies so that people could survive during long periods of siege. Water and waste disposal were thus a significant aspect in choosing proper location.

The Hindus (3) recorded in Sanskrit about 2000 B.C., their collection of medical lore, Ousruta Sanghita, the following concerning water. "It is good to keep water in copper vessels, to expose it to sunlight and filter through charcoal." Additionally in the Susruta Samhita, dating back to 2000 B.C., it was stated "impure water should be purified by being boiled over a fire, or being heated in the sun, or dipping a hot iron into it, or by filtration through sand and coarse gravel and then allowed to cool." The Hindu's in addition discussed the use of Gomedka, a type of rock, and vegetable substances, most notably the seed of Strychnos Potatorum for treatment of drinking water. Today we would consider these to be coagulants or polymers.

During the period of the great Roman Civilization, 900 B.C. to 476 AD, many of the Roman hygienic achievements were associated with military objectives. (3) Some examples were the great aqueducts, sewers, drains and public baths. Additionally the Romans reported the use of many natural chemicals to improve the taste and clarity of water such as:

  1. Diophannes (1st Century B.C.) advised putting macerated laurel in rainwater.
  2. Paxamus (1st Century AD) proposed that bruised coral or pounded barley, in a big and this bag be immersed in bad tasting waters to improve the taste.
  3. Vitruvius(15 B.C.) recommended that cisterns be constructed with two or three, separate compartments and the water transferred from one another, thus allowing the mud to settle and insure clarity.
  4. Pliny (77 AD) Said that POLENTA, a kind of food, added to bitter waters would render it potable in two hours. He also stated that this could also be achieved by the addition of chalk from RHODES and the argilla from ITALY. This is the first mention of lime and aluminous earth as precipitants.
  5. Socrates (469-399 B.C.) The use of wicks as siphons to transfer water was well known. Additionally filtration through porous vessels was also known.
  6. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) It was common knowledge that filtration could be done through earthen vessels that were not thoroughly baked.
  7. Hippocrates (460-354 B.C.) the father of medicine, wrote in Air, Water and Places, the first treatise on public hygiene, that, "whoever investigate medicine, properly should consider the seasons of the year, the winds and the waters in relation to health and disease." It was pointed out that "Qualities of water differ from one another in taste and weight" as well as other qualities. One should "consider the waters which the inhabitants use, whether they be marshy and soft, or hard and running from elevated and rocky situations, and then if salty unfit for cooking.....for water contributes much to health." Hippocrates also asserted that rain water should be boiled and strained to prevent the water from having a bad smell. For the straining process a specific cloth bag was to be used, and this was referred to as the "Hippocrates Sleeve."

In discussing the Roman Empire we would be remiss if the aqueducts were not examined more thoroughly. (5) "The hills surrounding Rome provided excellent locations for outposts, prompting the shepard and farmers to build a walled city for their protection and to use the fertile countryside for their subsistence." As the population grew so did the need for additional water and means of disposing of wastes. Additionally their limited water supplies made Rome more vulnerable to their enemies. However, Typhoid and Malaria were even worse enemies. To cope with these problems the Romans designed and constructed a sewage system, which served two purposes, carry away the wastes from the city as well as storm water. This required larger sewers along the roadways. Surface water provided by rainfall was inadequate to carry away the ever-increasing amounts of waste. Poison gasses constantly belched from the sewer openings and polluted kitchens and bathrooms. And when nightfall occurred, thousands of screeching rats leaped from the maze of sewers and took over the streets. Additional water was required.

The Romans determined that any new source water had to pass a quality inspection. The initial steps were to find springs that were visibly pure and clean, were safe from pollution and free from moss and reeds. Secondly the local users of these springs had to undergo an examination in which the eyes, bones and complexion were of main interest. Cloudy eyes, weak bone structures, and poor complexions were symptoms of bad water. If there were no users of the water for local purposes the water then was tested for corrosion, suspended solids, boiling characteristics and clarity. Corrosion studies were made by filling a bronze container with the water sample, letting it stand for a given period of time and testing the water to determine any signs of discoloration.

After reviewing many locations a spring was found meeting all requirements. The spring was located 5 miles east of Rome above the Via Callatina and the first aqueduct was completed in 312 B.C. To protect the water from their enemies the aqueduct was buried, additionally since they did not have modern day construction equipment they were forced to go around obstacles. The aqueduct ended up being 10.29 miles in length. This first aqueduct "Aqua Appia" provided 16 million gallons of water per day. Over the next 364 years eight more aqueducts were built providing Rome with more than adequate water for drinking, flushing, fountains and fire fighting. This was a remarkable feat.

In 97 AD Sextus Julius Frontius (3) became curator aquarium or water commissioner and his dedication to his work permits him to be called an Engineer. His background was military; however he had served in many important civil positions. His belief was that he had to learn thoroughly what he had undertaken. By 98 AD Frontinus had completed his studies and produced two books on the water supply of Rome. It is the first known detailed description of a water works system. This report (6) was so detailed that it even gave the gallons per capita of water use of these early Romans of 38/gal/day/person. This was very high when you consider that PARIS in 1550 AD was only 0.25/gallons/day/person.

Biblical References
The early HEBREWS (3) had a very strong code for sanitation and hygiene and it is described in detail in the Old Testament Book of Levictus. If there were to be a mention of water supply one would think it would be there, but it isn't. There are three incidents describing the quest for pure water.

  1. Moses is said to have sweetened bitter waters by casting into them a tree shown to him by the Lord. (Exodus 15:22-27)
  2. During Moses' 40 years of wandering it is said that the Lord told Moses exactly where water could be found such as Moses smiting a rock and bringing forth waters (Exodus 17:1-7).
  3. Much later, Elisha is said to have "healed unto this day" the spring water of Jericho by casting salt into it. (II Kings 2:19-22).

In the Bible there are many instances of the use of the word "water" (7). In fact the word water is used 694 times in 620 verses. For an example, Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. There is no comment on how to make pure water.

There were many other civilizations also practicing sanitation such as Assyria, Babylonia, China, Japan and parts of Asia and Africa. So worldwide it appears sanitation was an important part of creating and maintaining a civilization.

The Dark Ages
With the fall of the Roman Empire around 400 AD, began the Dark Ages (2). Instead of water being boiled to make water pure it was "the age of Mysticism" where witches were boiled in water. Consequently, filth, pestilence, and plague came back and continued until the 18th century.

Age of Enlightenment
Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher (3) began writing a reorganization of all human knowledge including an "inductive method of modern experimental science." In 1627, a year after his death, his last book was published Sylva Sylarum or a "Natural History in Ten Centuries." This compendium of knowledge described the thousand experiments that he had recorded, ten of which pertained to the treatment of water, including percolation or filtration, boiling, distillation and clarification by coagulation. He also dispelled a popular belief of the Romans that sea water could be desalinated by moving water through soil. Bacon proved that a well, placed near the sea would get natural ground water from a high elevation rather than from the sea and that is why the water found in such wells were fresh water.

During the next two centuries health matters and water treatment were still empirically done. By the late 1700s scientific experiments began (3) (8), chemists began systematically to weigh, to measure and test. Henry Cavendish isolated hydrogen. Joseph Black discovered carbon dioxide. Antoine Lavoisier discovered the doctrine of oxidation by proving that matter cannot be created or destroyed it changes form. He also proved that water was a compound and not an element; as water was formed by combining two elemental gases hydrogen and oxygen. To prove this Lavoiser placed these two elements into a proper vessel, and ignited this mixture with an electrical spark, the mixture exploded and water was formed. Lavoisier, who was first to recognize the distinction between elements and compounds he also introduced quantitative chemical methods and has been referred to by many as the Father of Modern Chemistry.

The biggest change to move sanitary engineering forward was the development of the science of bacteriology. (2) Leprosy became endemic about 1300; also between 1348 and 1350, the bubonic plague or Black Death caused the death of nearly one quarter of Europe's population, nearly 60 million persons died. It was unknown how to counteract these so-called "Acts of God." Finally in the 17th Century, scientific study was beginning. Names like Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the microscope Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur all did work in the development of the science of bacteriology, but yet the science was not perfected.

With the development of large cities, furthered by the Industrial Revolution, people moved to urban areas and lived more in crowded conditions and the frequency of epidemics increased. In 1854 (9), a localized outbreak of Asiatic Cholera broke out in London. Through careful examination by John Snow and John York, they demonstrated, with the science available to them, that the source of pollution had to be from the Broad Street Pump Station. It was later found that a nearby broken sewer was the source of the contamination into this drinking water source. Finally it was correlated to an English soldier who had just returned from India and carried the cholera bacteria. This incident was a milestone as it was the first proof that water could be a vehicle for disease such as Asiatic Cholera.

It wasn't until the 1870s that Robert Koch (2) (3) (9), a German scientist, trained as a medical doctor, turned to the new field of bacteriology. He discovered and developed the methodology of the use of solid culture media to separate or isolate pure cultures from mixed cultures. He also set forth criteria for establishing the etiology of disease. These axioms are referred to Kochs Postulates and are as follows:

  1. A specific organism must always be associated with a given disease.
  2. It must be able to be isolated in pure culture.
  3. When inoculated into a healthy, susceptible animal it must always produce the same disease.
  4. It should then be able to again be isolated in pure culture.

Today, these postulates have been modified somewhat and not all of the 4 criteria are needed to prove a causal relationship. Later Koch discovered that hypochlorous acid (HOCL) could be used as a disinfectant. Today this compound is an integral part of nearly all water plants using disinfection as a part of their treatment scheme. For these very important discoveries, Robert Koch has been designated as the Father of Bacteriology. The 1880s were known as the "Golden Years of Bacteriology," during this time nearly all known communicable diseases were isolated; identified and the vector of disease determined. Now the World was ready to move forward to improve sanitation; as Sanitary Engineers now had the sciences of Chemistry and Bacteriology to add to their knowledge of Engineering.

Environmental Improvements in the United States
In the United States in the early 1800s (10) it can be said that hydraulic engineering was environmental engineering. As early communities grew they needed more water. Each area was different where a good quality and abundant supply of water could be found. For an example, the City of New York in 1832 retained Colonel De Witt Clinton, an Army Engineer and son of a former New York Governor, to develop the Water Resources Plan for the City. His plan was to dam the Croton River and water would be delivered to the City by a 40-mile aqueduct. By 1842, the City was receiving up to 95 million gallons per day of good quality water.

This plan worked so well that other cities soon followed this approach. The City of Boston built a similar aqueduct from Lake Cochituate to the City. Ellis S. Cheseborough was hired as Chief Engineer of the Western Division of the Boston Water Works and responsible for the construction of this new aqueduct. It was completed in 1848. Cheseborough later became the City's Chief Engineer and responsible for the collection of sewage and storm water. It was decided that the most practical method to control these waste flows would be through the use of combined sewers. That is a sewer large enough to carry the flow of liquid sanitary wastes and storm flows and then transporting them to the ocean or to a nearby river. Most large cities favored this approach because of the lower costs of constructing two sewerage systems; treatment was not considered important at this time. Cheseborough, in 1855 resigned his position and moved to Chicago where he developed Chicago's sewerage system.

As the demands for water increased throughout the country, there became a concern for the quality of the water used for public use. The Massachusetts State Board of Health (10) in 1873 asked Professor Wm. Nichols, the head of Chemistry, at the then infant Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to analyze the water quality of the waters within the state. To do this Professor Nichols in 1878 established the first Sanitary Chemistry Laboratory in the United States. Next this new laboratory had to be staffed and Professor Nichols hired a recent MIT graduate Ellen Swallow (10) (11). She was the first coed at MIT and to graduate, however she was not allowed to earn her Doctorate there but her work at the Laboratory made her one of the foremost sanitary chemists in the world.

The state of Massachusetts in 1887 established the Lawrence Experiment Station as a research center for sanitary engineering. This combined the disciplines of Engineering, Chemistry, and Biology for the solution of sanitation problems affecting public health. This center was professionally staffed and was also augmented with the use of MIT professors, such as Professor Wm. Sedgwick, a biologist. Professor Sedgwick, by 1900 was instrumental in the development of wastewater treatment by using the recently developed bacteriological techniques by Dr. Robert Koch of the University of Berlin. MIT was the first college in the United States to train students jointly in the fields of Engineering, Chemistry and Biology. Thus, many of the early professionals in Sanitary Engineering received their training at MIT.

St. Louis Environmental Challenges
Environmental problems were occurring throughout populated United States and St. Louis was no exception; as it had similar problems to other large cities. Water supply, wastewater disposal and storm water disposal were a common bond between all growing communities.

A. St. Louis Public Water Supply
From its founding in 1734 until 1835 St. Louis depended for its water supply upon springs and cisterns (12). In 1835 the city developed its first public water supply system. This plant consisted of a pump station to lift Mississippi River water into a settling basin, which was the only form of treatment. After settling, the water was pumped through a cast iron distribution system to the public. It is interesting to note, that the pipe had to be installed at least 3 feet 6 inches deep: this is exactly the same depth as of today. This plant was located in downtown St. Louis in an area now popularly known as Laclede's Landing. From 1835 until after the Civil War this water supply was plagued with many operation problems including high silt loads from the river and too small of piping in its distribution system.

In 1863 the state of Missouri passed legislation authorizing the City to build a new water facility on the Mississippi River but further upstream. On March 27th, 1865, Mr. James Pugh Kirkwood was appointed to be the Chief Engineer of the City of St. Louis. As Chief Engineer he was charged with the task of developing a new water supply for the City of St. Louis which was to be located upstream at Bissels Point. This plant was supposed to have a 40 million per day (MG) capacity, without the use of filters. Mr. Kirkwood was a Scottish born railway engineer who came to the United States in 1832 and worked on many large railroad bridges and tunnels in northeastern United States. Mr. Kirkwood moved to St. Louis in 1850 to become the Chief Engineer for the newly formed Pacific Railway. This was a very important position as the railways were expanding to the west. New cities were formed along these new routes, to provide services to the railways. The first of these bears the name of Kirkwood, Missouri.

The City of St. Louis wanted to be sure that their new water plant would be designed using the latest concepts. Kirkwood was sent to Europe to visit and learn from other water systems. In his 1866 report to the City Administration, Kirkwood recommended that the plant should be located further upstream, at a location known as the Chain of Rocks, with four settling basins using the "fill and draw" method, to handle the silt load and 6 to 8 slow sand filters. Each slow sand filter was to be 260 feet by 150 feet and to have 30 inches of sand, 24 inches of gravel, and 24 inches of stone. Based upon his judgment this facility was projected to require ten filters to produce twelve million gallons per day (MGD). This system was to be designed using a per capita use of 30 gallons per day usage, which was less that water usage of the early Romans. This plan was rejected by the City Council in May of 1866. Once again the City Administration directed the Chief Engineer to design a water plant to be located at Bissels Point without filtration. Kirkwood defended his position on the use of slow sand filters. He said the turbid western waters had sediment, "though trifling in weight, renders the water very objectionable in appearance, very objectionable in its application to any of the Arts or manufacture, and no acquisition certainly as regards to health and cleanliness. " Kirkwood further stated that eh custom of using "western waters may reconcile persons to its presence."

There is a story attributed to Mark Twain (12) who said it was easy to recognize a stranger to the St. Louis area by offering him a glass of water. The stranger waits for the mud to settle while the native stirs it up and drinks it immediately to secure the full power of its life giving properties.

Mr. Kirkwood revised his report to meet the CITY'S demands and lost his position as Chief Engineer in 11867. He then moved to New York City and later in 1867 was elected to be the President of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He died in 1877 at an age of 70. Mr. Kirkwood was vindicated in his recommendation for the use of slow sand filters to treat Mississippi waters, as in 1871, slow sand filtration was selected as the treatment process for the city of Poughkeepsie, New York. Kirkwood's successor as Chief Engineer was Thomas Jefferson Whitman, who was the brother of the famous poet Walt Whitman. Thomas Whitman oversaw the construction of the Bissels Point water plant, the way the City wanted and this plant became operational in 1871. The City had adequate water, which was still muddy.

In 1873, the City of St. Louis withdrew from St. Louis County and the City boundaries were locked in. Many other changes also occurred including the shifting of the supervision of city water to a Water Commissioner. In 1877, Mr. Minard Holman, an 1874 graduate of Washington University joined Mr. Whitman as an assistant.

During the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, at a meeting of Engineers (13), it was suggested that there should be a meeting of Water Supply Professionals to share their knowledge of waterworks operations. After considerable planning this meeting was finally held beginning March 29th 1881. This meeting was held at Washington University in St. Louis, this University was founded in 1853 and its Engineering school began in 1870 (14). Mr. Whitman and Mr. Holman from the City of St. Louis were in attendance. This meeting was the founding meeting of the American Water Works Association (AWWA). This 100 plus year old organization today is the leading source for development standards, exchange of design and operational data for public water suppliers, and today this organization has over 50,000 members. Members came from all over the world.

In 1894 a new water plant was needed and this time it was to be built at the Chain of Rocks, under the supervision of Mr. Holman; filters however were still not in the treatment process and the public still had muddy water. With the occurrence of the upcoming World's Fair in 1904, the Mayor of St. Louis, Rolla Wells, in 1901 (15) proclaimed the City would have clear water for the Fair. This was a must to be able to invite world travelers to the St. Louis World Fair or s it was officially known the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, 1904.

The City had tried many schemes over the years to improve the quality of the settled water; but none were found to be better than the "fill and draw" method originally recommended by Kirkwood. The City turned to a brilliant, but somewhat eccentric chemist, Mr. John F. Wixford, an 1886 graduate of Washington University. A new treatment process using lime and ferrous sulfate was being used in Illinois and Ohio, but it had not been able to perform in St. Louis. Wixford, after much experimentation demonstrated that the use of "milk of lime," that is calcium oxide, slaked at a temperature of 190 degrees F and applied to the water after the addition of ferrous sulfate gave consistently good coagulation results. Using this new treatment process the problems with mud disappeared and the City had clear water. The City did not add until 1915 filters to this treatment process (12). When completed this was the largest filtration plant in the world; with 40 filters and over 700 feet in length and designed to produce 160 MGD. It was and is impressive.

In the early 1900s (16) the population of St. Louis County was also beginning to grow including the need for public water supply. After several attempts to form a private company to supply water, "The West St. Louis Water and Light Company" was formed. The Company succeeded in obtaining the needed financing and its facilities, including filtration, became operational on April 1, 1904, just 30 days prior to the opening of the World's Fair. This system has grown over the years and became what we know today as the St. Louis County Water Company. The shareholders in 1946 elected Mr. W. Victor Weir as President of the Company. Mr. Weir was a Washington University Civil Engineering Graduate. Since 1946 the President or the Chairman of the Board of the Water Company, the largest investor owned individual water company in the United States, has been a Washington University graduate.

Well, the Fair was held and it was a monumental success and the City had its world class water system thanks to Wixfords process; A process which is still in use today, at both the City and County Water Plants. From 1904 until today the St. Louis area has been supplied with safe and adequate water supply so that growth could occur. Since the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 this basic treatment process is still providing exceptional results.

B. St. Louis Sewers
St. Louis was destined for growth because of its location and with more than ample supply of water from the Mississippi River; this flow is also augmented from the flows of the Missouri, Illinois and Meramec Rivers (17). The City is surrounded by water. However the geologic features of the area threatened to impede urban growth. The surface topography was misleading. The watercourses did run downhill, however beneath the soil there was underlying limestone strata which rose and fell in ridges running roughly parallel to the Mississippi River; and any construction of drainage would require tunneling. Additionally, this limestone was also attacked by chemical weathering from rain water percolating through the soil with weak acids from carbon dioxide in the air and organic acids in the soil. Thus, the St. Louis landscape was full of sinkholes. These sinkholes were used by the early populace to dispose of storm water as well as draining the effluents from local sewers, as there was no overall sewerage system to drain water away from the City (17). As population increased these sinkholes soon became open cesspools.

During this period, the rapid increase in the population of the City was mostly German emigrants. In 1832 there was a major cholera outbreak in the City and nearly 4% of the population died. This epidemic was blamed on the emigrants. The City then built a hospital next to the Mississippi River just a little south of where the present Jefferson Barracks Bridge crosses the river. This was done to intercept the packet boats, bringing the emigrants up the river. All passengers were quarantined until there was proof of their wellness.

In 1849 there was another very serious cholera outbreak and nearly 10% of the population (6,000 persons) died. However, this time the occurrence information indicated the cholera epidemic origin pointed to a particular sinkhole. Thus, the draining of sinkholes, swamps and water catch basins had to be done to improve the public health of the City. Major trunk sewers had to be built. The City voted a tax increase to begin the sewerage system. A West Point Engineer, Samuel Curtis installed the first major trunk sewer. This sewer was a 12-foot arch type structure and completed under budget. This was remarkable because of the unknown costs of the tunneling required to get through a 40-foot rocky bridge at Broadway (17).

Curtis next devised an elaborate master plan to drain all of St. Louis, the north, the central and the south areas to promote public health. In the mid 1850s, this plan was approved. The first area to receive trunk sewers was the central area, where the majority of the populace lived. Through this area ran Mill Creek, which became a swampy area referred to as Chouteau's Pond. The Mill Creek watershed contained 6,400 acres. This construction of a new sewerage system was slow. In 1866 once again there was a cholera outbreak killing about 300 people. The people once again voted higher taxes. The City was growing very rapidly and it appeared that regardless whatever was built, it still was not enough. The City then built a relief sewer to take the waste water to a further western watershed, the River Des Peres, which formed the City's western border, and merged into the Mississippi River just south of the City.

One of the major problems of that time was that lateral sewers could be added even though there was no trunk sewer available to safely carry away the wastes. The lateral between the trunk sewer and the house or building, was to be paid for by the individual user deriving the benefits. So laterals were built and their effluents were dumped wherever. In 1891 more monies became available to increase sewer construction due to the possibility of a future World's Fair.

By 1894, the River Des Peres (18) was described as nothing less than a monster open sewer, poisoning the air with the most dangerous corruption and a menace to public health. In 1901 more taxes again provided additional monies to construct a better sewerage system for the central area; and by the time of the World's Fair in 1904, many new trunk sewers had been added. However, the River Des Peres remained a relief sewer for the City with all of the problems previously noted.

Mr. W.W. Horner, a 1905 (19) graduate from Washington University in Civil Engineering, went to work for the City immediately upon graduation. In August 1915 (18), a major rainstorm hit St. Louis; with 10.6 inches of rainfall occurring in 17 hours. This deluge caused 11 deaths and over one million dollars in property damage. The City demanded that a plan of action be prepared so that the City could be able to handle this type of natural disaster. Mr. Horner was selected as Engineer in Charge to prepare this plan; and Mr. Horner's plan which was completed in late 1916, outlined the plan to redo the River Des Peres. In 1918, Mr. Horner became the City's Chief Engineer and was responsible to oversee the work outlined in his report. In a 1923 election, the voters overwhelmingly passed a new bond issue including the River Des Peres work of 87.4 million dollars. This gave the City the money needed to solve the River Des Peres problems as well as other needed sewers. Mr. Horner received much notoriety for the design and construction of the River Des Peres, through the use of innovative engineering concepts. The plan was basically to bury this river through the city and allow it to empty harmlessly into the Mississippi River. This project nearly 20 miles in length began construction in 1924 and was completed in 1933. On October 27, 1988 the River Des Peres was declared a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

In 1932 (19), with a change of administrations Mr. Horner and his Assistant were asked to leave their positions with the City. Shortly thereafter, in 1933 Mr. Horner along with his able assistant, Mr. Hyman Shifrin started the consulting firm of Horner and Shifrin. The City later asked Mr. Horner and Mr. Shifrin to return to their former positions with the City, however they declined.

In 1934, Horner began teaching municipal and sanitary engineering course s at Washington University; in 1937 he was named as a Professor.

The Horner and Shifrin consulting firm hired its first engineer in 1933 and it was a Washington University graduate in civil engineering; Mr. Stifel Jens who graduated in 1932 with a BS and in 1933 with a MS degree. Mr. Jens stated later in his life that he believed that Mr. Horner was perhaps one of the most outstanding storm-water drainage hydrologists in the country. Both Mr. Horner and Mr. Jens made many contributions to Urban Hydrology. In 1963 (20), Mr. Jens cofounded the Urban Water Resources Council of the American Society of Civil Engineers. His leadership of this program brought him international acclaim. In 1970, Mr. Jens received a Presidential Commendation for his "many contributions to environmental excellence through his work in urban hydrology and engineering."

C. Air Pollution in St. Louis
By 1873 (17) St. Louis had become an industrial city and many of the businesses caused considerable pollution and nuisance. One in particular was a rendering plan, which had a contract with the city to collect dead animals from the streets. These dead animals were boiled to extract fat, grease, and bone material. The adjacent community was outraged with these odors; the City's immediate solution, a compromise between politics and local pressure, required this boiling to be done on a boat furnished by the city in the Mississippi River. This problem eventually lead the way toward a long-term solution and this was to develop a city-wide zoning plan. When this was finally done in 1918 (17); St. Louis became the second city, next to New York City to have such a plan.

Another significant aspect of the air pollution problem was smoke. St. Louis had a distinct advantage in the use of cheap energy for businesses and home because the availability of coal from Southern Illinois. The bad news was that this bituminous coal caused considerable smoke and fly ash. By the 1920s (17), Engineers in St. Louis had calculated that the City's smoke deposited about 900 tons of solids annually per square mile and cost the City's populace annually approximately $15,000,000; a staggering sum. After many attempts by the City to control smoke, the City in 1933 appointed a mechanical engineering professor from Washington University, Mr. Raymond R. Tucker, to control the smoke. It was seven years later in 1940 when the city finally acted by passing an ordinance changing how fuel was to be burned and the fuel to be used. This was done after the "Black Tuesday" event in 1939 when the City's air was so bad at noon it looked like midnight. After the smoke abated Mr. Tucker returned to Washington University and became the Department Chairman of Mechanical Engineering from 1942-1953 (14) (15). In 1953, Mr. Tucker was elected to become the Mayor of the City of St. Louis. Mr. Tucker's leadership and the models of engineering and legislation to remove the smoke and ash became a national model for industrial cities.

The 1950s and Environmental Engineering
After World War II, the emergence of synthetic chemicals became common place in the marketplace. One prime example was the new synthetic detergents. Shortly after the distribution of these new home use products many of the nation's waterways began to foam. These new detergents were not biologically degradable and existing sewage treatment facilities could not break down these wastes (21). This foam thus became a visual indication of pollution and the public quickly became aware of pollution. Additionally, Dr. Rachel Carson in 1962 wrote in her book, "Silent Spring" (22), which foretold of the future in vivid details if environmental controls were not developed. These incidents helped to pave the way for "Earth Day" and the significant changes in environmental legislation which took place nationally.

Environmental change was also taking place in St. Louis. In 1954, (15) the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) was formed. Thus wastewater and storm water in St. Louis, both City and County, were to be under the control of one organization and this organization was to be under the leadership of a Professional Engineer. Sewage treatment also was to begin, instead of relying on the Mississippi River to be the area's sewage treatment facility.

In 1956, leading engineers in St. Louis saw the need for engineers to be better trained in the field of sanitation, public health and engineering. To fill this need Washington University created a new Program to develop Sanitary Engineers (23). This program became to be referred to as "The Envirsan Program." This program can best be described from a plaque dedicated in April 1997 which states the following: "After World War II, demand for industrial and consumer goods caused increased production. Many new compounds, formulated with wartime research, began entering the environment. To solve problems associated with these new chemicals, as well as others that resulted from industrial and consumer growth required trained engineers and scientists who specialized in solving environmental problems. Visionaries at Washington University, included Don Fisher, Dean of Engineering; Henry Reitz, Chairman, Department of Civil Engineering; Dr. Carl Tolman, Vice Chancellor: and alumni Stifel W. Jens and W. Victor Weir, were instrumental in 1956, of recruiting, Dr. Devere W. Ryckman to be chairman of a new department of Environmental and Sanitary Engineering within the Sever Institute of Technology. The beginnings were humble; a laboratory in a kitchen in the basement of Liggett Hall. In the next few years Dr. Edward Edgerly, Jr. and Dr. Nathan C. Burbank joined the staff. By 1959 the program, referred to as the Envirsan Program, occupied spacious laboratory facilities in the new Engineering Building which is now Urbauer Hall. Dr. Henry Tomlinson and Dr. Rolf T. Skrinde joined the program in the early 1960s, and Dr. Jim Buzzell joined the program in 1966. Between 1958 and 1975, the Envirsan Program with its motto of "Restless Research" conferred 115 graduate degrees to environmental engineering leaders who have gone on to make their mark in industry, government, research and teaching." It is of interest that most of these professors had earned a graduate degree from MIT.

In the mid 1950s (24) national leaders in environmental engineering saw the need to move the profession to a new level. It was agreed that what was needed was specialty certification, similar to that of the medical profession. Leaders of all major environmental fields in 1955 decided that what was needed was a new organization embracing all fields of Environmental Engineering; The Academy of Sanitary Engineering Intersociety was founded. The founding organizations were the American Public Health Association (APHA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Water Works Association (AWWA), and the Water Pollution Control Federation (WPCF). In 1966, the American Society of Sanitary Engineers changed their name to the American Academy Environmental Engineers (AAEE). By 1986 additional sponsors included the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Solid Waste Association of North America. The mission of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE), is to enhance the profession and to provide a better quality of life for all. This philosophical view is the same one that has been shared by all, even back to the days of the early Egyptians. The Academy is doing this through a certification program where Environmental Engineers are tested in their specialty, those who succeed are conferred as Diplomats, Environmental Engineering (DEE). Today, there are approximately 2,400 Engineers worldwide who have been conferred as Diplomats, Environmental Engineering.

In my view there are several areas where I see that our field and you as future leaders will be challenged.

1st. The replacement of old infrastructure using modern technology; taking costs into affect.

2nd. Continued research and development of new measurement techniques to further study the impact of pollutants in the Environment. And when cost is justified, taking into account the entire environment, to proceed with making changes.

3rd. Addressing Governmental laws, rules and regulations to ensure clarity and reducing the conflicts between them. Presently, much of the control of the environment has been focused toward each type of pollution without looking for what is best overall for the environment. Money is also a natural resource and its expenditure must be wisely done to obtain what is the best for the environment, at the least cost. Dr. Murray Weidenbaum, Chairman of the Center for the Study of American Business located at Washington University, is a national leader in attempting to develop these issues and discuss alternatives and options. Truly is a challenge!

Finally, our Profession has been around for over 5 millenniums, ever since known civilizations began. Yet it was only 125 years ago that science became the basis for our Profession. Coincidentally this was about the same time when the Washington University School of Engineering was formed. Also it was only 40 years ago that our profession was properly named and became a profession of its own with the formation of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. As we look back we can see the many contributions made by so many and we can also be proud of the contributions made by the graduates and faculty of Washington University.

I hope this history of Environmental Engineering gives you a "new" perspective on your profession. The best of luck to you as you leave here and go forth to be the environmental leaders of the future.




  1. "The Purpose Driven Church," Rick Warren, Zondervan Publishing Company, 1995.
  2. "Bacteriological, Principles and Practice," Arthur Bryan and Charles G. Bryan, Barnes and Noble - 5th Edition, 1956.
  3. "The Quest for Pure Water," M.N. Baker, American Water Works Association, 1948.
  4. "Knossos-The Minoan Civilzation," Sosso Logiaduo, Archelogist, Athens, Greece, 1997.
  5. "The Aqueducts of Rome," Vol. 1 of "Man and Water" published by the Waste Management Division of Calgon Corporation, July 1970.
  6. "Urban Water Demand-Management and Planning," Donald D. Bauman et al, McGraw Hill, 1998.
  7. Personal communiqué from Pastor A. Mark Friz, April 1998.
  8. "Age of Enlightenment," Peter Gay, Time - Life Books, 1966.
  9. "Handbook of Chlorination," George S. White, Van Nostrand, Reinhold Publishing Company 1971.
  10. "Environmental Engineering - PE Exam," American Academy of Environmental Engineers, 1996.
  11. "Ellen Swallow Richards," "Profiles in history," American Academy of Environmental Engineers, 1996.
  12. "History of St. Louis Area Water Supply," William Schworm, unpublished history of the City Water Division, April 1996.
  13. "AWWA Centennial Issue," American Water Works Association, Spring 1981.
  14. "School of Engineering & Applied Science," Washington University 25th Anniversary, 1995.
  15. "Lion of the Valley-St. Louis," James Neal Primm, Pruett Publishing Company, 1981.
  16. "St. Louis County Water Company - The First Century," Charles A. Buescher, Jr., unpublished company history, September 1996.
  17. "Common Fields: An Environmental History of St. Louis," Published by the Missouri Historical Society Press, 1998.
  18. "The River Des Peres - A St. Louis Landmark," American Society of Civil Engineers Program published by the Metropolitan Sewer District, 1988.
  19. "Personal Inquiry in to My Horner Family," Wesley Horner, from a family biography, date unknown.
  20. "School of Engineering Mourns Loss of a Friend, Stifel W. Jens," Washington University Alumni News, 1995.
  21. "Reduction of Foaming of Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate by Ozonation," C.A. Buescher, Jr., Masters Thesis (unpublished), 1961.
  22. "Silent Spring," Dr. Rachel Carson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962.
  23. "Dedication of Plaque, Honoring Washington University ENVIRSAN Program, April 1997.
  24. "Who's Who in Environmental Engineering," American Academy of Environmental Engineering, 1997.

Washington University in St. Louis School of Engineering & Applied Science, Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Brauer Hall, CB 1180, 1 Brookings Drive, Saint Louis, MO, USA 63130
Phone: (314) 935-5548, Fax: (314) 935-7211

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