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THE PUBLIC HEALTH.
Legislature of 1894 relaxed some of the provisions of this law, against the protest of the city; and the result is that, taking into account all the money spent for sewer construction under the law of 1892 to December 31, 1894, I find that only 58.8 per cent. has been covered by assessments. This percentage may be increased somewhat when the sewers now in process of construction are finished and assessed; but the present sewer law, though fairer for the city than its predecessors, is still unduly favorable to the abutters.
In view of the fact that the community has had to pay the entire cost of the Improved Sewerage and Metropolitan Sewerage systems, and of the Stony Brook, Muddy River, and Back Bay Fens improvements, and that it also defrays the whole expense of maintaining and keeping in repair the ordinary sewers, it seems only fair that at least 75 to 85 per cent. of the total first cost of the latter should be collected from the estates for the special benefit of which the sewers are built. The law should be amended in this sense, and the entire cost up to $7 or $8 a running foot should be assessed, instead of only $4 as at present.1
While the question of assessment was, is, and will continue to be of great importance, it was entirely superseded in urgency by the necessity, which became apparent about twenty years ago, of supplementing the system of public sewers, then all draining by various connections into the tide waters about the city, by entirely new and different methods of disposal. There being in most parts of the city no great fall towards the shore, and nowhere a tidal flow sufficient to sweep the sewage out to sea, the flats surrounding the city were gradually converted into permanent sewage deposits, their offensiveness became more and more apparent, the increase in the annual death rate was a cause of legitimate alarm, and the community became convinced of
1 As some of our sewers cost from $10 to $75 a foot, the proposed change would still leave ample room for public contribution. The sum originally advocated before the committee on cities of the Legislature of 1892 was six dollars, but the real-estate owners induced the committee to fix it at four.
the necessity of adopting an entirely different system of sewerage disposal.
Accordingly, in 1876, after an agitation lasting some years, the Legislature authorized the city to establish main sewers and drainage works from and through the different sections of the city proper to discharging works at Moon Island.1 The preliminary surveys for this system were made in 1876, the act of the Legislature was accepted in 1877, and the work was begun in that year. It was sufficiently advanced to be ready for use in 1884, up to which time. it had cost about four million dollars, and has been in successful operation ever since. Since then about two million dollars more has been spent in improvements and extensions, bringing the total cost to December 31, 1894, up, to $6,304,068.09.2
The next important drainage work undertaken by the city was the care of Stony Brook, the principal natural channel for the surface drainage of Roxbury, West Roxbury, and the westerly part of Dorchester. This stream had given much trouble since 1850, and a good deal of money had been spent by Roxbury and West Roxbury, and, since annexation, by the city of Boston, in unsuccessful efforts to restrain its waters in times of flood. An elaborate improvement of the system was undertaken in 1880, and completed in 1884, at a cost of about $400,000. This work was proved to be a failure by the flood of 1886, and a still more elaborate and expensive scheme was thereupon adopted. The work was begun in October, 1887, and completed in December, 1888. The cost of the conduit was about $650,000, and about $375,000 more has been expended for land and damages. Stony Brook, as a whole, has cost the city of Boston up to December 31, 1894, the sum of $1,470,317.58.3
The next large work undertaken for the purpose of controlling the surface drainage was the creation of the basin
1 St. 1876, ch. 136.
2 Of which $631,231.33 has been expended since the 1st of January, 1891.
3 Of which $95,330.15 has been spent since January 1, 1891.
THE PUBLIC HEALTH.
known as the Back Bay Fens, into which Stony Brook and Muddy River have their outlets. This improvement was undertaken in connection with the park system, authorized by popular vote in 1875. The first appropriation for the Fens was made in 1877, and the improvement has cost to date $2,614,303.93,1 part of which is properly chargeable to the park which has been built upon its borders, and part to its purpose as a storage basin for the surface waters brought down by Stony Brook and Muddy River.
Muddy River, draining portions of Brookline and West Roxbury, has been improved and its shores utilized for park purposes at an expense to date of $1,452,050.97, all of which but $226,617.01 has been expended during the past four years.
In addition to these improvements, undertaken on municipal account, the Commonwealth has built a metropolitan system of drainage for portions of the city and the neighboring towns. This system is divided into two parts: the Charles River Valley, or south part, covering Brighton, part of the city proper, Newton, Watertown, Waltham, and Brookline, which was completed in 1892, and enters the main drainage system of the city of Boston at a point on Huntington avenue; and the north part, which is to take care of the sewage of East Boston, Charlestown, and the towns and cities on the north bank of the Charles river. This work is nearly completed, and will be ready for use early in the coming year. The cost of the Metropolitan system (both parts) will be about $5,500,000, of which Boston will pay between 20 and 25 per cent., in the form of annual assessments included in the State tax.2
With the completion of the Metropolitan Sewerage System there is no reason why the people of this city should not be congratulated upon having as complete and successful arrangements for the disposal of surface drainage and sewage
1 Of this amount $442,617.33 has been expended since January 1, 1891.
2 The city's share of the Charles-river part of the system is 23.02 per cent. of the cost of construction and 25.05 per cent. of the cost of maintenance. Its share of the north part of the system is 20.45 per cent. of the cost of construction and 22.65 per cent. of the cost of maintenance.
as can be furnished under the adverse topographical conditions of the case.
The expense to the city, since 1873, of ordinary sewers, the main drainage system, the Back Bay Fens, and the Stony Brook and Muddy River improvements, has been about $12,500,000, while the Commonwealth has disbursed, as already stated, $5,500,000 in addition. The cost has been enormous; but the work is done and paid for, and the decrease in the death-rate during the past twenty years is evidence of the wisdom of the expenditure.
SECTION 9. Pest-holes and other Nuisances. Notwithstanding the removal of the main cause of the pollution of the tidal flats surrounding the city, these still continued to be offensive in many cases, particularly where cut off by the construction of parks, roads, or other embankments from the daily access of the tide. After struggling for years with the owners of these flats to induce them to put their property in a proper sanitary condition, the Legislature was appealed to; and in 1893 a law was passed,' after much opposition from interested parties, giving to the Board of Health the power to compel the abatement of these nuisances by proceedings in equity. Under the operation of this law almost all the flats and marsh surrounding the Back Bay Fens have been filled with gravel and other clean material, and the odors formerly proceeding from these lands have entirely ceased.
Other laws increasing the powers of the Board of Health in the abatement of nuisances have been urged and secured.3
SECTION 10. Water Supply. If it has been difficult to drain the city properly, it is a still more difficult task to supply it with a sufficient amount of pure water. No rivers, lakes, or other natural source of water supply, adequate to the needs of a large population, exist in this part of New
1 For construction merely maintenance and repairs excluded.
* Stat. 1893, chap. 342.
Particularly Stat. 1893, chap. 460; 1894, chap. 119.
England; and it has been necessary, therefore, to create the supply by means of storage or impounding basins. Besides Lake Cochituate, the original source of the supply procured by the city in 1846, there have since been built five large basins along the upper reaches of the Sudbury river. A sixth is now in process of construction. This work is enormously expensive, the net cost of the Cochituate WaterWorks having been $19,615,810.16, to December 31, 1894; and the limit of capacity of the Sudbury river system will before many years have been reached. It will then be necessary to go much farther away in search of water; and believing that a similar necessity would be felt by some of the surrounding communities, and that the whole question of our future water supply was therefore a proper matter for investigation by the Commonwealth, I petitioned the Legislature of 1893 to appoint a State commission to investigate the subject. The matter was referred by the Legislature to the State Board of Health, which is now engaged in an elaborate inquiry, the results of which are soon to be made public.
No expense is spared to improve the quality of the Cochituate water and its color; and although the latter is what is technically known as "high," that is to say, the water is not as white as that of many other cities, yet its quality is believed to be of the best. The defect of our water system is its inadequacy in quantity; and this defect can only be met by the expenditure of great sums of money in the future, as in the past, for additional sources of supply.
The Mystic Water Works, obtained by the city by the annexation of Charlestown, have been a much more advantageous investment from a pecuniary standpoint; but the supply is wholly inadequate to the needs of the communities now dependent on it, and very much remains to be done to protect the upper waters of the Mystic system from pollution. In the meantime the quality of the water is poor. After two years of negotiation, arrangements have been completed, awaiting only the favorable action of the City