A Book Births Safe Municipal Water Supplies

Important Book Leads to Clean River Waters. Sharon Kleyne Teaches New Water Infrastructure Author & Pioneer.

Sharon Kleyne, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water, Global Climate Change and Your Health on VoiceAmerica, and an international educator about water and its history, recently shared some facts about James P. Kirkwood, an early giant in water history.

“Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Kirkwood proved to be a man of many parts,” said Kleyne. She pointed out that he worked for the Long Island Rail Road and achieved early fame by constructing the Starrucca Viaduct near Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. It was the largest stone viaduct of its time and it marked the first time that concrete was used in American bridge construction. “Concrete,” said Kleyne, “is so important even today as we repair our water infrastructure with new and better dams and pipelines.” Kleyne added that Kirkwood was appointed Chief Engineer of St. Louis, Missouri in 1865 and oversaw the design of several state-of-the-art waterworks. Leaving this post (he was replaced by the brother of the poet Walt Whitman) in 1867, Kirkwood returned to New York and served as President of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Yet, Kirkwood’s most significant contribution to water research and advancement, according to Kleyne, was his book, Report on the Filtration of River Waters. Kleyne noted that Kirkwood’s was the first book written and published in any language that focused on filtration of municipal water supplies. The book summarized Kirkwood’s investigations from 1865-69, a period in which he described filters and filter galleries of 19 European water works he had visited.

“Kirkwood’s book,” said Kleyne, “led to towns and cities building safer filtration systems and aqua ducts. Kirkwood was engaged in water research and development of the highest order,” Kleyne concluded. Kleyne hopes we can build on the example and accomplishments of people like James P. Kirkwood because we are in dire need of new water planning get back to water planning and development,” said Kleyne.

The long-term goal is to cure contemporary illnesses and supply more people with fresh, safe water to drink. Kleyne hopes that we become more aware of water shortages everywhere, especially in underdeveloped nations and that we pay more attention to water health and safety.


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