Maggie Black – Creating a stink about the world’s wastewater

Exactly 150 years ago, an exceptionally hot spell of summer weather reduced the Thames flowing through London to a scandalous condition known as The Great Stink. Queen Victoria, travelling down the river to Millwall docks, had to contain her nausea by clamping a bouquet to her nose. The fumes were not only foul but terrifying, since they were thought to be pestilential – the source of cholera.

The Great Stink, with its power of concentrating MPs’ faculties, led to the introduction of legislation for the transformation of sewerage in London. An unprecedented sum for a domestic purpose, £3m, was voted for intercepting sewers to be tunnelled along the riverside by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The act, rushed through by August 1858 was to lead to revolutions in local government and public health engineering throughout the world.

If only such action was expressed today. Great Stinks are still routinely emanated by rivers swollen with raw sewage and reduced to a trickle in the hot season in parts of Asia, Africa and Central America. But the stench does not instil the same degree of terror.

More – The Guardian

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