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OPINIONS regarding Sewage Treatment


DR. GILBERT FOWLER, F.T.C., F.C.S. (Superintendent and Consulting Chemist of the Manchester Corporation Sewage Disposal Works) in giving evidence upon Dibdin’s slate beds, said :-


"The result of examination showed that at no point did the deposit, although teeming with bacterial life, possess a really offensive smell. In general, it rather resembled seaweed. The presence of numerous red worms showed that the conditions were mainly aerobic. Apparently similar changes were taking place in the beds to those occurring in well-manured soil on the banks of slightly polluted rivers. . . I am able to state my confident opinion that the slate process is scientifically and economically sound."


DR. SIDNEY BARWISE, D.Sc., D.P.H., (Medical Officer of Health for County of Derby), in his quarterly and annual reports to the County Council, says

"The sludge nussance is one which has called for an enormous amount of attention from experts. Mr. Dibdin has, during the last two or three years, perfected a system, which I have been to inspect. . . The result is that the whole of the organic matter in the sewage is digested by the worms and other living creatures and converted into humus. . . The Dibdin slate bed consists of a shallow tank packed with pieces of waste slate laid horizontally, each layer being 2 in. above the one below. . . . When the bed is in full working order the slates are covered with a rich dark humus. Of course, there are bacteria, but the chief organism present is the Tubifex Rivulorum; in fact, the beds I saw at High Wycombe were almost pure colonies of these creatures, with nests of their eggs. In addition, there were other larger worms, annelida, and their larvae, insects I could not classify, crustaceans, arachnida, and innumerable amoebae, infusoria, and other protozoa. Under the microscope the lifeless solid matter appeared in the form of short columns, of the same diameter as the intestine of the Tubifex Rivulorum, and I have no doubt that the bulk of the sludge on the slates consists of the casts of the common river worm

—it is, in fact, humus. . . First, all the decomposable organic matters in it are digested, and it is perfectly inodorous—in fact, the only smell which I was able to distinguish by applying my nose to the beds was the good smell of the earth. The result of this is that in the future it will be possible to put sewage works nearer to dwellings than previously would have been regarded as desirable, and Authorities with a sludge nuisance have a simple mea s of getting out of their difficulty. . . . Here, then, we have what I believe to be the safe conclusion to the old controversy between the advocates of contact beds and percolating filters. What is required is :—(1) a subsidence tank to separate the grosser suspended matters (i.e., road grit) ; (2) primary contact beds of slates in duplicate, to produce an inodorous and easily disposed of sludge, and at the same time a tank effluent which is already aerated; (3) a separating tank, to catch humus, and so save filters; (4) a percolating filter, to finally oxidise the organic matter in solution."

Report of Meeting of the Institute of Sanitary Engineers from "THE SURVEYOR," 1909.

MR. A. J. MARTIN, M.I.C.E., says: "They all believed that Mr. Dibdin had discovered the North Pole in this matter and were willing to give him every credit for his attainment."

Excerpt from letter from DR. SIDNEY BARWISE, M.D. (LOND.), B.Sc., County Medical Officer of Health, Derbyshire, to Messrs. SAUNDERS & SAUNDERS, Civil Engineers, 39, Victoria Street, Westminster.

September 9th, 1910.



I have carefully gone through the two reports submitted by you and the sketch plan of your scheme for treating the Whitstable sewage. The conclusions I have come to are that your scheme carries out the suggestion made in the report of the Local Government Board. It complies with all their requirements, and it is drawn up on lines which I believe the Kent County Council would approve, as also would those interested in the oyster culture.

Looking at it from the point of view of oyster culture and the amenities of the place as a health resort there are six distinct lines of defence against contamination of the foreshore and the shell fish:-

1. The slate beds in which the solid matter is digested by minute worms, infusoria and other organisms.

2. The humus tanks separating the solids discharged from the slate beds.

3. The percolating filters, which are the most practical methods of oxidising sewage yet known.

4. The humus tanks separating the solids in the effluent from the filters.

5. The sand filters such as are constructed for the filtration of water.

6. The storage of the sewage as suggested by the Local Government Board so that it may be discharged on the ebb tide.

I have no hesitation therefore in saying that you have taken every possible precaution against the contamination of the shell fish which is yet known to science.

Excerpt from letter from MR. CHAS. S. BALL, Corporation Sewage Works, Manchester, to MESSRS. SAUNDERS & SAUNDERS, 39, Victoria Street, S.W.

September 9th, 1910.

In reply to your enquiry of the 7th inst., re scheme of sewage disposal for the Urban District of Whitstable.

I have most carefully considered the whole of the information put before me, After consideration I feel convinced that the methods you propose to adopt in the sewerage of the town will be most efficient, whilst the methods you propose for the purification of the sewage includes everything that modern science can suggest.

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