Monday, May 12, 2008

Drinking Water

I've long wondered about these silver boxes scattered around the city. I had assumed that they functioned as part of some Victorian-era system of checking the water supply for fun pathogens like cholera, which ravaged urban populations well into the 19th century. In fact, the discovery that water-borne cholera precipitated London's worst epidemics of the mid-19th century led to the development of that city's first modern sewer system. Of course, given the corruption and inertia that often plagued New York City's Tammany-controlled government in the Gilded Age, I should have known better.

In the end, I was shocked to learn that these water sampling stations date to 1996/97, when City Hall decided to spend $11 million on a system of 300 stations scattered around New York. Why? State law requires that the city water supply be tested at least 480 times a month for "coliform bacteria, organisms that indicate fecal contamination of the water supply." It turns out that under the old system there were sampling stations in restaurants, laundromats, firehouses, and even fire hydrants, all of which could potentially yield unreliable results. Each box contains a spigot, from which city workers extract bottled samples - drawn directly from a neighborhood's water main - which are then tested. Who knew?


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1 comment:

jblack designs said...

That's interesting. I, too, am surprised at how recent they are.

Down here we're in a post-Jenna slump. Gotta girl the girl kuddos for figuring out how to evade the paparazzi. Of course, a 30-mile no-fly-zone and bussed-in guests always help.

The bigger news in our little burg is that a Brad Pitt/Sean Penn movie was filming at the courthouse the day before the first-daughter's nuptuals. No handsome hunks were to be found on locale, but rumor has it they'll be in Smithville, just east of Austin (where Hope Floats was filmed) this summer.

No no-fly-zone there, you see.