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Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 43 - Sewage Disposal on the Farm, and Protection of Drinking Water
Author: Smith, Theobald
Language: English
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Transcriber Note

Emphasis denoted as _Italics_.

                     U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

                       FARMERS' BULLETIN · No. 43.

                       SEWAGE DISPOSAL ON THE FARM,




                          THEOBALD SMITH, M. D.,

    _Professor in Harvard University, Pathologist to the Massachusetts
                       State Board of Health, etc._





  Introduction                                     3
  Disposal of sewage                               5
    Night soil                                     7
      The privy                                    7
      The cesspool                                 7
      The dry-earth closet                         8
      The water-closet                            11
    Liquid sewage                                 11
      Vaults                                      11
      Irrigation                                  12
    Kitchen and chamber slops                     14
    Waste and garbage                             15
  Protection of drinking water                    16
    Ways of contamination                         17
    Construction of wells                         18
  Conclusion                                      19


  Fig. 1. Shallow barnyard well                    6
       2. Portable earth closet                    8
       3. Old form of earth closet                 9
       4. Earth closet and dry catch              10
       5. Self-acting peat dust closet            11
       6. Settling chamber and flush tank for
            irrigation                            12
       7. Subsurface irrigation of sewage         13
       8. Garbage cremator                        16



The conditions under which homes and their surroundings are kept healthful
in the city and in the country differ in many respects, although the
principles underlying them are essentially the same. In the city the
sanitary condition of homes is maintained chiefly by a system of
cooperation and centralization which brings into existence extensive
sewerage systems, water supplies, and the collection of house waste by
public authority. Regulations are prescribed and enforced under which
the individual household must avoid all conditions which are likely to
prove dangerous to the health of the immediate neighborhood and of the
entire community. In the country districts, and more particularly in
isolated homesteads, the conditions affecting the health of the household
are largely in its own hands, and more individual effort is required to
maintain healthful surroundings than in cities. The farmer must supply
himself with his drinking water and must get rid of the waste of the
household as best he can. On the other hand, the inhabitant of the country
is in many ways better off than the dweller in large cities. Not only
has he pure air to draw upon at all times, but he can supply himself
often with purer food than is possible in large communities. Though he
must procure for himself drinking water, he is, in most cases, able to
get a purer water from the ground than the sewage-polluted fluid which
is the only water accessible in many cities. While he must get rid of
night soil himself rather than have it disposed of by a water-carriage
system conveniently located within the house, he may avoid the annoying
complications of plumbing, bringing with it the leakages of sewer gas, the
plugging up of soil pipes by the roots of trees or by articles carelessly
thrown into them. Moreover, he has it often within his power to acquire
sufficient land around his house to take charge of all sewage and waste
and to utilize it as a manure for enriching the soil. Nevertheless, it
must be acknowledged that when the circumstances under which healthful
surroundings are procurable are under the immediate control of each
individual household they are apt to be perverted through ignorance and
neglect. Conditions may then arise which are not only unfavorable to
health, but which are likely to lead to severe sickness at any time when
the opportunity presents itself.

Standing between the fortunate inhabitant of a large city whose
water-supply and sewerage systems are above reproach and the farmer
who bas it within his power to make them so with reference to his own
wants, is the half-developed village or town, with its chiefly unsanitary
conditions. Here the leaky cesspool still exists, close by the family
well, or by the neighbor's well. The absence of any system of collecting
garbage and miscellaneous waste shows itself by the littering of the
yards, the alleys, streets, and even stream beds with all kinds of
refuse. In some towns the premature introduction of a water-supply system
causes the ground to become still more thoroughly saturated with diluted
sewage, so that the wells of those households not yet connected with
the water-supply are a continual source of danger. In such communities,
appreciation of the necessity for a public control of sanitation has not
yet made much headway. The acts of each family violating the laws of
health not only react upon itself but upon the immediate neighborhood,
often with disastrous results. When typhoid fever has once gained a
foothold in such communities it is apt to develop into an epidemic.

The tendency of our population to concentrate in villages and towns makes
the sanitary improvement of such communities a most important and vital
condition of national health and prosperity. The following pages are not
intended for these communities, for they need, in most cases, the advice
of sanitarians and sanitary engineers, acquainted with local conditions.
Still, they may be of service in pointing out the dangers which may and do
actually beset the population that neglects to dispose of refuse and waste
in a manner which does not clash with the laws of health.

The chief dangers which threaten rural inhabitants are those arising from
polluted drinking water. This is infected from the household excrement and
barnyard drainage, as will be described farther on, and its use leads in
the main to bowel disturbances, typhoid-fever, and dysenteric affections.
It might be claimed that in an isolated homestead the danger is absent
because the night soil from the healthy household can not contain the
germs of typhoid-fever, and, therefore, the well water can not receive
them from leaky cesspools and surface drainage. This would be true if
the family lived secluded from other human beings. As the case stands,
there is much more communication than is at first thought supposed. There
is more or less coming and going of farm hands and other hired help,
of tramps, peddlers, etc. The farmer travels more than formerly. He
frequently visits neighboring communities. The children go to school. As
it has been shown that there may be mild cases of typhoid-fever passing
unnoticed, in a farm hand, for example, who leaves on account of ill
health, perhaps, and who has meanwhile, in his discharges, deposited the
germs of this disease on the premises, it is evident that isolation
nowadays does not exist except in remote, thinly settled regions, and that
disease germs may make themselves suddenly felt in an unexpected manner in
any farmhouse.

There are other important reasons, however, why rural sanitation should
not be neglected. The health of the large communities of people who draw
their food supply from the country is in a measure dependent on the health
of the farming community. There is scarcely a city child who is not, in a
degree, dependent for its health on the sanitary conditions prevailing in
the house of the dairyman. Milk has been repeatedly shown to be the means
of distributing typhoid-fever and other diseases. Any vegetable foods
from the farm eaten raw are liable to become carriers of infection under
unsanitary conditions.

In many parts of our country other causes operate in making the health
of many people depend on the proprieties of country homes. The thousands
of city people, who flock every summer to the country and bring to the
farming community considerable sums of money, should be properly protected
against the dangers of polluted water and infected milk by the adoption
of suitable methods of sewage disposal. Too frequently those who left the
city for the purpose of gaining strength by breathing pure air, drinking
pure water, and eating pure food, only return with the germs of an often
fatal disease within them to swell the typhoid statistics of our large


The vital thing which thus presents itself is the disposal of fecal matter
and other refuse so that the wells, upon which most rural families depend
for their drinking water, may remain pure. To this matter we will first
turn our attention.

Every person who tills the soil is acquainted with the remarkable
transforming power of the superficial layers of the earth upon manure and
excrement. Out of these offensive wastes harmless substances are produced
which are essential to the growth of vegetation. This power, known as
decay, is now generally attributed to very minute organisms (bacteria)
which are found in immense numbers in the superficial layers of the soil,
which diminish in number as we go deeper, and which completely disappear
below a depth of 6 to 12 feet, according to the physical condition of
the soil. Bacteria are more numerous where waste and excrement are most
abundant. When night soil and manure are deposited in excavations or
so-called cesspools in the earth, from which the fluid matter may enter
the ground at some depth below the surface, where the air or certain kinds
of bacteria can penetrate only to a slight extent, the substances, which
under the influence of the air (oxygen) and of bacteria near the surface,
would have decayed, now undergo partial putrefaction with the setting
free of disagreeable gases and odors. The deeper layers of the earth
slowly become saturated with organic matter, which is carried by the
ground-water into the wells or springs near by. There is also some reason
to believe that disease germs live longer in the oxygen-free depths of the
soil than at or near the surface.

The extent to which the filling up of the soil with excrementitious matter
may go on in densely populated cities has been shown by Fodor for the
Hungarian city Budapest. By analyzing the soil at different levels from
the surface to a depth of about 13 feet, he found, over an area comprising
15 acres, about 1,000,000,000 pounds organic matter, equivalent to the
excrement of 100,000 people voided during thirty-seven years.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--The shallow barnyard well, with privy vault and
manure heaps near by. The water is likely to receive fluid from these at
any time.]

To the surface of the earth we owe thus a purifying influence whose
activity furnishes us vegetation and food on the one hand and preservation
from disease on the other. This purifying power is not possessed by the
deeper layers, and therefore the percolation of organic refuse into them
from deep cesspools is wasteful to agriculture and dangerous to our
storehouse of drinking water.

Even the surface of the soil when overloaded with sewage loses partially
its power of purifying the organic matter. After sufficient rest, such an
overloaded soil regains its original power. The purifying activity of the
soil from a sanitary aspect is the same as that governing fertility from
an agricultural standpoint, hence any further discussion of this subject
is unnecessary.

A hint as to the proper disposition of waste, excrement, etc., is
furnished by what is stated above concerning the purifying capacities of
the earth's surface. Waste, night soil, etc., should be deposited with
proper precautions on or immediately below the surface of the soil, where
it may perform the double function of ridding the household of a nuisance
and of enriching the soil itself. This leads us to a consideration of the
best means of taking care of the household wastes. These are, in general,
of three classes: First, fecal matter; second, kitchen and chamber slops;
and third, miscellaneous rubbish and ashes.


The proper disposition of fecal matter or night soil in the country has
been one of the most pressing and vexatious problems of modern sanitation.
Many plans have been suggested, much apparatus has been invented to meet
the difficulty, but opinions not only differ but change from year to year
and have led to different practices in different countries. Moreover,
different climatic conditions and the divergent tendencies of rural
populations in the various sections of our own country make it impossible
to apply the same scheme to the whole country. Different degrees of
prosperity and wealth, even in the same locality, will bring into use
widely different schemes to accomplish the same end. There are in use
several systems--

_The privy._--The old-fashioned privy, at present still quite a common
thing even in cities, is, perhaps, the most favored method of disposing of
fecal matter in the country. A pit is dug and a small building set over
it. The excrement deposited in it slowly fills it up. The fluids and the
solids dissolved by them penetrate the subsoil and diffuse themselves in
the ground. Rarely is such a pit cleaned out. Another is dug and the old
one covered up. In this way the ground becomes overloaded with refuse
organic matter. It is even stated on good authority that such collections
of fecal matter have been found under the dwelling; also, that the privy
vaults have been dug until the current of ground-water was reached which
was to facilitate the removal of the excrement. It is difficult to
conceive a more pernicious custom, or one more certain to pollute the
drinking water. The privy vault is the most rudimentary way of getting rid
of night soil, and its dangerous features are too plain to be referred to.

_The cesspool._--Next comes the cesspool, which is usually connected with
a water-closet, and may also receive the slops from the kitchen.

These are constructed in two ways, either as water-tight receptacles or as
simple pervious pits differing in no way from the privy vault excepting,
perhaps, in their more dangerous tendencies. All sanitary authorities
agree in condemning the leaky cesspool as a most shiftless and dangerous
method of getting rid of sewage. In most countries they are prohibited
by law in populous communities. In exceptional cases, leaky cesspools
may do no harm, as in an isolated house in the country whose cesspool is
built at a considerable distance both from the house and the well. The
safe distance from any well it would be difficult to state, because that
would depend on the character of the subsoil and the general slope of the
land. In any case, the cesspool should be on lower ground than the well,
as the current of the ground water feeding the latter, usually but not
always, conforms to the slope of the surface. A fair estimate of the least
allowable distance between well and cesspool would be 100 feet. Soluble
salts from sewage might still find their way into the well water, but it
is quite improbable that disease germs could penetrate the soil for such a
distance except where fissures and cracks may be present.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--Portable earth closet. A, the pail to receive the
excrement; B, the urine-separating receptacle hanging on the open door; C,
mouth of the hopper conveying the dry-earth or ashes from reservoir D upon
the night soil in A.]

In villages, leaky cesspools are still of frequent occurrence. If the
drinking water is taken from wells, such cesspools are a constant menace,
and all that is needed in many such towns is a spark in the shape of some
disease germ to kindle an epidemic. It is true that years may pass by
without the occurrence of more than the usual amount of illness, but even
then we have good reason to suppose that in many villages using cesspools
the average amount of sickness and mortality is far too high, not to
mention the occasional epidemics of typhoid-fever. We may sum up the
matter of leaky cesspools by the statement that they may do no harm near
isolated houses on farms, provided they are sufficiently far away from the
source of water-supply. In small towns cesspools should be prohibited, or
only very thoroughly constructed water-tight ones permitted, according to
circumstances. The same holds true for the well-known privies.

_The dry-earth closet._--The dry conservancy system is a much better
method of disposal of excrement, and is extensively in use to-day even
in certain large cities on the Continent of Europe where sewers have not
yet been introduced. This consists in the main of the frequent removal of
excreta in the country by some man servant or member of the family; in
villages and towns according to some cooperative plan. This system has
taken various directions, according to circumstances. Thus there are what
is called the pail system, which consists in the daily or less frequent
removal of a pail receiving the excreta; and the earth closet invented by
the Rev. Henry Moule, of England, the chief feature of which consists in
the covering of the excreta with some absorbent substance like dry-earth
or ashes. In some places the excreta are received into a well-built brick
or stone receptacle and covered with earth, from which they may be removed
from time to time. Of these systems the dry-earth closet has received the
greatest amount of attention and discussion. It consists, essentially, of
a pail to receive night soil, which is covered either automatically or
with a scoop with dry-earth (fig. 2). The earth absorbs the fluids and the
odors and keeps the closet inoffensive.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--The old form of earth closet with frame and pail
removed to show the mechanism. The handle on the left when raised throws
into the pail a certain quantity of dry-earth or ashes from the reservoir
or hopper in the rear.]

The earth to be used should be a rather fine loam, sifted to remove
coarse particles, thoroughly dried by spreading out in the sun or under a
shed, and then stored in barrels. The drier the earth the better it is.
The finer the particles of earth the greater the capacity for absorbing
fluids. For this reason sand is not satisfactory. Goal or wood ashes are
quite satisfactory, as they are, after proper sifting, of the requisite
fineness and are thoroughly dry. The mixture of earth or ashes and night
soil should be removed at certain times, depending on the location of
the closet, the season of the year, and other conditions. The more
frequent the removal the better. The mixture of soil and excrement is so
unobjectionable that it has been used over a number of times after being
dried each time. This can not be recommended, however, as it is generally
accepted nowadays that disease germs may remain alive in such a mixture
for some time.

In place of the movable earth closets, a water-tight, concreted area
may be built in an annex to the house, which is to receive the night
soil from a closet on the floor above with the necessary quantity of dry
soil (see fig. 4). Poore, from whose book the illustration is taken,
recommends, in addition, the construction of the floor of such a pit with
an inclination sufficient to carry away the urine into some gutter outside
filled with absorbent soil. The area should have suitable openings for
inspection and for removal of contents, as well as for ventilation. Waring
recommended a similar system many years ago. The closet described by him
discharges into a water-tight vault in the cellar, which requires emptying
only occasionally. The contents remain inoffensive, provided sufficient
thoroughly dry earth is used.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--Earth closet and dry catch (from Poore's
"Rural hygiene," scale, 1/2 inch equals 1 foot). To prevent drafts the
earth closet is closed below by a hinged flap which opens and shuts
automatically by means of a counterpoise. The catch below is provided with
air bricks and an air shaft leading to a ventilator.]

In cold climates, indoor closets are especially desirable to obviate
the exposure which can not be avoided when closets are out of doors.
For invalids there should be a carefully managed earth closet kept in
a well-aired room set apart for this purpose. In warm climates, earth
closets should be frequently cleaned. To prevent the attraction of flies
and insects and the too rapid decomposition of the contents a little
unslacked lime added with the earth to the excrement will be of value.
The discharges of persons suffering from typhoid-fever and bowel troubles
should be mixed with thin slacked lime[1] (milk of lime). One-half to
one hour after the mixing, such discharges may be put upon the soil,
always at some distance from a well or spring, a stream, or a field under

[1] Lime, to be used for disinfection, should not be air-slacked, but kept
in tightly covered receptacles to prevent this from taking place.

In Europe, the use of earth and ashes has been superseded by peat dust.
The upper layer of peat is dried in the air and ground in a suitable
machine. The coarser particles are removed by sifting and used for bedding
in stables. The fine portion, which has a very high absorbing power for
fluids and is also capable of preventing odors, is used in dry closets.
In Germany there are at present about thirty factories engaged in the
preparation of peat moss for the purposes mentioned. Its great advantages
over dry earth should bring it into use in our country. (See fig. 5.)

It does not matter from a sanitary standpoint which one of the dry-earth
systems is adopted, provided the necessary attention be given to it. Every
system which can be recommended is bad if not properly attended to. The
conditions to be observed are:

The night soil should be received in water-tight receptacles.

It should be frequently removed.

It should be utilized in the garden or field by being placed under a thin
layer of soil.

To excreta from the sick, milk of lime or unslacked lime should be added
before disposal in the soil.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Self-acting peat dust closet. The lid is replaced
by a hinged reservoir containing the peat dust. Whenever this is let down
a certain quantity of peat dust is discharged automatically and thrown,
upon the night soil. (From Weyl's Handbuch der Hygiene. II, p. 315.)]

_The water-closet._--There can be no doubt that to-day the water-carriage
system, as it is called, or, in simpler language, the indoor water-closet,
is preferred to all other contrivances. This is true for the open country
as well as for villages and the suburban territories of cities. There
is much to be said in favor of the present-day perfect contrivance for
the rapid removal of excreta and the exposure thereby prevented. But
for all rural inhabitants the cost should be carefully weighed before a
water-carriage system is introduced into a house, for none but the best
will answer, as all others are likely to become nuisances.

The supply of water must be sufficient to flush the water-closet
thoroughly and keep all the pipes clean; the plumbing must conform to
that in vogue in cities, with its traps and ventilating pipes to prevent
the odors of the pipes from escaping into the house; and the disposal of
the large quantity of liquid sewage, the most difficult problem, must
be properly attended to or it is likely to prove more dangerous to the
water-supply than the old dry privy pits.


The methods available to dispose of liquid sewage in the country are
water-tight cesspools and irrigation.

_Vaults._--Water-tight cesspools should be constructed of hard-burned
brick, laid in cement, and having a similar brick or a concreted bottom.
The inside and outside surfaces of the brick wall should be coated with
a thin layer of cement, and clay rammed in around the wall, to increase
its imperviousness to water. It should be vaulted above, and topped by
a square or round central opening, covered with stone or iron plate.
Cesspools are also made of cast or wrought iron, the joints being made
water-tight. Cesspools must be ventilated by two pipes, one rising several
feet above ground, the other carried to the roof of the house, barn, or
other structure near by. The current will, in most cases, tend down the
short and up the long pipe. The latter may be dispensed with and the soil
pipe of the house act as a flue, provided all branches are perfectly

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Settling chamber and flush tank for surface
and subsurface irrigation of sewage. (From Gerhard's "The Disposal of
Household Wastes," 1890.)]

_Irrigation._--The disposal of sewage by irrigation is by far the best
method now within reach. Two methods are in use, viz, surface and subsoil
irrigation. The first in its most complete form consists in carrying the
liquid sewage to a piece of ground set apart for the purpose and carefully
underdrained. The sewage is allowed to flow over the ground in shallow
channels. The fluid slowly disappears in the soil and enters the drains
as comparatively pure water, which may be allowed to flow into a stream.
For villages this is the best means of disposing of sewage. Those who as
village officials may be interested in this method will find plans of
such sewage farms, together with faithful accounts of their operation and
the results obtained, in the annual report of the State Board of Health
of Massachusetts for 1892, page 559, and same report for 1893, page 563.
Suggestions for its application to country houses are given farther on.

For isolated rural homes, or village homes commanding a certain amount of
ground around the house, the liquid sewage from water-closets, the kitchen
and chamber slops may be disposed of by the simple means of subsoil
irrigation, first described by Mr. Moule and subsequently elaborated by
Colonel Waring.

The system as used at present in its most successful form consists,
outside of the house, of the following parts (see fig. 6):

Two adjoining water-tight receptacles of brick. One of these receives
the sewage from the house and is intended to act as a settling chamber
for the coarser particles, paper, etc. This communicates with the second
receptacle, which receives from it the fluid sewage. This chamber is
called the flush tank and is provided with a siphon. When the fluid has
reached a certain level, the siphon is set in operation and discharges the
contents of the chamber at one time into the subsoil pipes.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--Subsurface irrigation of sewage: _a_, absorption
tiles (Gerhard's "The Disposal of Household Wastes"); _b_ and _c_, lines
of absorption tiles showing their relation to flush tank (From Waring's
"Sewerage and Land Drainage").]

From the second cistern a system of subsoil pipes laid over a treeless
piece of ground, preferably a lawn, receives and discharges the sewage
into the ground. These pipes should consist of porous tiles, 2 inches
in diameter and about 1 foot long, laid from 8 to 16 inches beneath the
surface of the ground, and with a gentle inclination of 2 or 3 inches for
every 100 feet. The tiles should have open joints not less than one-fourth
of an inch wide. They are laid upon earthen gutters and the joints are
protected above by caps from being clogged with earth. The intermittent
discharge of the liquid sewage is quite essential to the successful
working of this system. If the sewage is allowed to dribble away into the
pipes certain portions of these will become supersaturated with fluid and
others will not receive any; the purification of the sewage in the soil is
thereby rendered imperfect. The discharge of a large quantity of fluid at
one time, besides scouring the system of pipes, fills it more uniformly
and distributes the work to all parts of the subsoil system.

The successful construction of such a plant requires the services of
someone familiar with it, and it is therefore not necessary for me to
do more than call attention to it here as a highly recommended system
for homes, especially in villages, where the proper amount of land is
procurable and where the sewage must be disposed of in a manner both
inoffensive and safe. In any case the soil of such land must be porous,
not clayey and retentive. Those who wish to familiarize themselves with
the details will find descriptions in the Sanitary Engineer for 1883, page
530, by Philbrick; in "The Disposal of Household Wastes," by Gerhard, and
in "Sewerage and Land Drainage," by Waring. The entire plant is said to
cost $200 to $300, the annual expenditures for cleaning, repairs, etc.,
about $10.

The method of subsurface irrigation just described may be too complex
and too expensive where land is abundant and neighboring houses at some
distance. The simpler method of surface irrigation may be resorted to by
laying out at some distance--at least 100 feet--from the house a small
sewage farm where the sewage may flow in shallow trenches over the surface
and slowly sink into the ground. Such an irrigation field must have the
same qualities demanded by subsurface irrigation. Its surface should have
sufficient slope and the soil should be porous, not retentive. The liquid
sewage, including kitchen and chamber slops, is conducted to this field in
a water-tight tile drain and then allowed to flow into shallow trenches.
To avoid the overloading of the soil with sewage at any one place the
main distributing trench should be so arranged that it and the irrigating
trenches branching from it may be temporarily blocked at any point to
divert the sewage into one or more different trenches every day. In winter
the warmth of the sewage will keep it in motion and the filtration will
go on although the field may be covered with snow and ice. The use of the
flush tank as described above would cause a more uniform distribution of
the fluid over the field and make the filtration distinctly intermittent.
The ground between the trenches may be cultivated to increase the amount
of evaporation. If conveniently situated, an orchard may be used as the
irrigation field. It should be distinctly understood, however, that
marketable fruits and vegetables should not be carelessly allowed to come
in contact with fresh sewage, nor should the irrigation field be near the
well unless the latter is fairly deep and tubed or tiled to the surface of
the water.


The removal of kitchen and chamber slops is a matter which also requires
proper attention, as this liquid frequently gives rise to unhealthful
conditions, annoying alike to sight and smell when carelessly disposed
of. The simplest way to utilize kitchen slops is to pour them upon plants
about the house in summer, in winter upon the soil, each time in another
spot, so as not to supersaturate the surface layers of soil in any one
place. A means of less trouble recommended by Waring is to partly fill
with soil a barrel with leaky bottom and cover this with a layer of stable
manure to prevent the puddling of the soil. The slops filter through the
soil and leave the barrel below as a clear fluid. The barrel is emptied
two or three times a year and the contents used for fertilizer.

House slops may be disposed of by surface irrigation or by subsoil pipes,
as already described. The originator of this method, Mr. Moule, may here
be profitably quoted as to its simplicity and success:

  Where there is a garden the house slops and sink water may, in most
  cases, be made of great value and removed from the house without
  the least annoyance The only requirement is that there shall be a
  gradual incline from the house to the garden. Let all the slops fall
  into a trapped sink, the drain from which to the garden shall be of
  glazed socket pipes well jointed, and emptying itself into a small
  tank, 18 inches deep, about a foot wide, and of such length as may
  be necessary. The surplus rain water from the roof may also enter
  this. Out of this tank lay 3-inch common drain pipes, 8 feet apart
  and 12 inches below the surface. Lay mortar at the top and bottom
  of the joints, leaving the sides open. If these pipes are extended
  to a considerable length, small tanks about 1 foot square and 18
  inches deep must be sunk at about every 20 or 40 feet to allow for
  subsidence. These can be emptied as often as required, and the deposit
  may be either mixed with dry-earth or be dug in at once as manure. The
  liquid oozes into the cultivated soil, and the result is something
  fabulous. * * *

  On a wall 55 feet in length and 16 feet high a vine grows. A 3-inch
  pipe runs parallel with this at a distance of 6 feet from it for the
  entire length. The slops flow through this pipe as above described. On
  this vine year after year had been grown 400 well-ripened bunches of
  grapes, some of the bunches weighing three-fourths of a pound. During
  a period of four years, for a certain purpose, the supply was cut off.
  To the surprise of the gardener scarcely any grapes during those years
  appeared; but afterwards the supply was restored, and the consequence
  was an abundant crop, the wood grow fully 16 feet, of good size and
  well ripened.

In place of an indoor sink, an upright tube or hopper may be constructed
out of doors in communication with the subsurface pipes into which the
waste fluids are poured.


The attractiveness of a rural home depends largely upon the promptness
with which all kinds of waste material are disposed of. The abundance
of space around the house is a great temptation for the members of the
household to use it as a place for storing rubbish and useless, worn-out
things. Sifted ashes are easily utilized in earth closets and upon walks
and roads, to make them compact and firm. Other articles of no use,
such as broken crockery, bottles, tin cans, etc., can be thrown into
depressions and gullies and covered over with earth, or else buried in
trenches where subsoil drainage is desirable. The removal of rubbish is a
very fruitful theme and might be dealt with at length. Its importance as
related to health and disease is a subordinate one, and the reformer must
appeal to the love of order, propriety, and beauty in and around the home
in order to make an impression.

Garbage is of much less annoyance in the country than in the city, where
its collection and destruction is a great expense, and is frequently very
unsatisfactorily done. In the country, the household garbage is fed to the
swine and poultry, and is in this way profitably used. There are, however,
homes where garbage must be taken care of in other ways. It may be buried
in the garden or else burned in the kitchen range. Recently a device has
been patented which enables the housekeeper to place the garbage in a
section of the smoke pipe of the range, where it dries out rapidly, burns,
and leaves only a little charcoal behind, which may be used for fuel next
day. This device has been well recommended by sanitarians (see fig. 8).

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Garbage cremator. The garbage is placed in the
perforated frame. The latter is pushed into the smoke pipe, where the
garbage becomes slowly carbonized.]


The next subject to claim our attention is the protection of the sources
of drinking water. In the country water is, as a rule, obtained from wells
and springs. The important bearing upon well water of soil purity demands
a few explanatory remarks concerning the origin of well water. Wells
are excavations made into the ground to a variable depth until water is
reached. This water is denominated ground or subsoil water. Its origin
may be better understood if, for the moment, we conceive the surface of
the earth as more or less irregular and entirely impervious to water. The
rain would collect on this surface and form lakes, ponds, and streams,
according to the configuration of the surface. If, now, we conceive this
surface covered with sand or other porous earth to a greater or lesser
height, and the top of this be considered the earth's actual surface, the
water will remain in the same position, but it will be buried within and
fill the pores of the overlying soil as subterranean lakes, ponds, and
streams. In digging a well we remove this porous layer of earth until we
reach these subterranean streams or reservoirs of ground-water. If the
above description be thoroughly understood, the condition under which well
water may be obtained at different depths will become intelligible, and
it will also appear plain why ground-water may flow as any surface stream
and pick up on its way various substances which have percolated into the

When the bed of porous soil overlying the impervious layers is very deep,
wells will have to be dug down to a considerable depth to reach the
surface of the ground-water. Where this layer of pervious earth is of
slight thickness wells will be shallow, and the ground-water may appear on
the bottom of gullies, trenches, and wherever the porous layer has been
dug or washed away.

The movement of the ground-water depends on the inclination or slope of
the impervious strata, and has been observed to be quite rapid in some
instances. By adding common salt to the water in a well its detection
in other wells at a short distance has been found a guide in the
determination of the rapidity and direction of the underground current.

When the ground-water resting on the uppermost impervious layers is near
the surface, and therefore not safe or fit to use as drinking water,
it may be possible by digging below this layer to find another porous
bed containing water. This source will, in general, be much purer since
it is less exposed to pollution from above, and since the water has to
travel longer distances underground. Such a deep supply must, however, be
protected from the superficial supply by a water-tight wall extending to
the surface of the deep supply, otherwise the water from the upper layers
will simply drain into the well.


Wells are exposed to contamination in two ways. The surface water from
rain, house slops, and barnyard drainage may find its way into the well at
or near the surface of the ground. Or the ground-water stream supplying
the well with water may in its subterranean movements encounter cesspools
or seepings from cesspools, and carry with it soluble and suspended
particles, some of which may enter the well. There can be no doubt that
a large percentage of the wells are exposed to contamination with refuse
matter in the manner described; and it now remains to gauge the danger
to health and life which may be carried in the contaminating substance.
The danger of typhoid-fever bacteria entering the water has already been
mentioned. These may be washed in from the surface or they may pass from
cesspools near by through fissures in the ground, passages dug by rats,
etc. Whether such bacteria can pass through the pores of a compact,
unbroken soil from a cesspool to a well near it is a matter not fully
settled. Since, however, the actual condition of the deeper layers of the
soil between cesspool and well can not be known, it becomes imperative
to prevent all pollution of the ground-water current supplying wells by
either abolishing the cesspools or else placing them at a considerable
distance from all sources of water.

Beside typhoid-fever bacteria, those organisms which cause digestive
disturbances, and severer troubles, such as diarrhea, dysentery, and
possibly other unknown diseases, may be carried into well water. During
cholera epidemics, polluted wells might form centers of infection. Eggs of
animal parasites may be washed in from the surface. Again, the barnyard
manure, representing the mixed excrement of various animals, may under
certain conditions be bearers of disease germs, and such excrement
should, under no conditions, be looked upon as entirely harmless to human

[2] It is probable that the filth which gets into cow's milk and which
appears to be mainly excrement of cows is largely responsible for the
severe summer diseases of infants fed on cow's milk.

Besides the protection of the ground-water near the well from pollution
emanating from cesspools, etc., the surface of the ground about the well
should be kept free from manure, slops, and other waste water; hence
the well should not be dug under or close by the house,[3] nor should
it be located in the barnyard, where the ground is usually saturated
with manure. It should be surrounded by turf, and not by richly manured,
cultivated, or irrigated soil. The ground immediately around it should
slope gently away from it and be paved if possible. The waste water from
the well should not be allowed to soak into the ground, but should be
collected in water-tight receptacles or else conducted at least 25 feet
away in open or closed channels which are water-tight.

[3] The water may be carried into the kitchen by running the pipe from the
well, horizontally, under ground.


The well itself must be so constructed that impurities can not get into
it from above or from the sides. If water can soak into it after passing
through a few feet of soil only, it can not be regarded as secure from
pollution. To prevent this, the well may be provided with a water-tight
wall built of hard-burned brick and cement down to the water level. The
outside surface of this wall should be covered with a thin layer of
cement, and clay pounded and puddled in around it. Or, tile may be used
to line the well and the joints made water-tight with cement down to the
water level. Driven wells, i. e., wells constructed of iron tubing driven
into the ground, are, perhaps, the safest where the quantity of water
needed is not large and where other conditions are favorable.

These different devices are all designed to keep water near the surface
of the soil from percolating into the well. To keep impurities from
entering the well directly from the top considerable care is necessary.
Such impurities are likely to prove the most dangerous because there is
no earth niter to hold them back and destroy them before they can reach
the water. Adequate protection above may be provided in several ways.
The sides of the tiled wells should project above the surface and be
securely covered with a water-tight lid. The ordinary well should also
have its sides project above the surface and a water-tight cover of heavy
planks provided, which should not be disturbed excepting for repairing or
cleansing the well. Under no circumstances should objects be let down into
the well to cool. A still better method of protecting the water from above
is to have the lining wall of the well end 3 feet below the surface of the
ground and to be topped there with a vaulted roof, closed in the center
with a removable iron or stone plate. The top should be covered with 12
inches of clay or loam; above this there should be a layer of sand, and
lastly a pavement sloping away in all directions.

Too much care can not be bestowed upon the household well. It should
be guarded jealously and all means applied to put the water above any
suspicion of being impure. This is especially true in dairies where well
water is used in cleaning the milk cans, and where steam and boiling water
have not yet found their way for this end. Polluted wells in such houses
not only endanger the health of the inmates but that of a more or less
numerous body of city customers.

In those regions where rain water is the only safe drinking water, the
same care is necessary to protect the stored supply from contamination,
and no suggestions beyond those already given are necessary here.


In the foregoing pages it has been the aim of the writer to give a few
facts and supply a certain number of ideas which, in the mind of any
person who has thoroughly understood them and who thinks for himself,
may be safely left to ripen into schemes adapted to his own wants and
surroundings. How many resources a man armed with correct views may find
in the simplest appliances the reader may judge for himself by consulting
Chapters IX, X, and XI of Dr. Vivian Poore's very interesting volume on
rural hygiene. Whether the means for utilizing household wastes there
described and adopted by him would be adequate outside of a limited
territory of our own country, I am not prepared to state. For the same
reason no definite suggestions can be made in these pages, owing to the
wide diversity in the climatic and other conditions obtaining over the
vast territory of our country. The writer has, furthermore, omitted all
statements of detail which properly belong to the sanitary engineer. The
works referred to will, however, supply those more directly interested
with the facts and figures desired.

The principles to be kept in the foreground are the disposal of sewage
in the superficial layers of the soil in not too great quantity, the
disinfection of the stools of the sick with lime before such disposition
is made, the digging of wells in places kept permanently in grass and at
some distance from barnyards, and, above all, their thorough protection
from contamination from the surface and from the soil immediately below
the surface.

In every community there are public-spirited citizens who could do much
good by taking hold of the simplest and safest methods of disposing of
sewage and refuse, putting them into practice, and showing the rest of
the community just what good can be accomplished and what harm avoided
by a little continuous attention to sanitary matters. In this way many
may be led to undertake improvements who, with no definite knowledge of
the expense involved and with misgivings as to the final success of the
undertaking, would otherwise hesitate to make a beginning.

       *       *       *       *       *


These bulletins fire sent free of charge to any address upon application
to the Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

[Only the bulletins named below are available for distribution.]

  No. 15. Some Destructive Potato Diseases: What They Are and How to
            Prevent Them. Pp. 8.
  No. 16. Leguminous Plants for Green Manuring and for Feeding. Pp. 24.
  No. 18. Forage Plants for the South. Pp. 30.
  No. 19. Important Insecticides: Directions for Their Preparation and
            Use. Pp. 20.
  No. 20. Washed Soils: How to Prevent and Reclaim Them. Pp. 22.
  No. 21. Barnyard Manure. Pp. 32.
  No. 22. Feeding Farm Animals. Pp. 32.
  No. 23. Foods: Nutritive Value and Cost. Pp. 32.
  No. 24. Hog Cholera and Swine Plague. Pp. 16.
  No. 26. Sweet Potatoes: Culture and Uses. Pp. 30.
  No. 27. Flax for Seed and Fiber. Pp. 10.
  No. 28. Weeds; and How to Kill Them. Pp. 30.
  No. 29. Souring of Milk and Other Changes in Milk Products. Pp. 23.
  No. 30. Grape Diseases on the Pacific Coast. Pp. 16.
  No. 31. Alfalfa, or Lucern. Pp. 23.
  No. 32. Silos and Silage. Pp. 31.
  No. 33. Peach Growing for Market. Pp. 24.
  No. 34. Meats: Composition and Cooking. Pp. 29.
  No. 35. Potato Culture. Pp. 23.
  No. 36. Cotton Seed and Its Products. Pp. 16.
  No. 37. Kafir Corn: Characteristics, Culture, and Uses. Pp. 12.
  No. 38. Spraying for Fruit Diseases. Pp. 12.
  No. 39. Onion Culture. Pp. 31.
  No. 40. Farm Drainage. Pp. 24.
  No. 41. Fowls: Care and Feeding. Pp. 24.
  No. 42. Facts about Milk. Pp. 29.
  No. 43. Sewage Disposal on the Farm. Pp. 22.
  No. 44. Commercial Fertilizers. Pp. 24.
  No. 45. Some Insects Injurious to Stored Grain. Pp. 32.
  No. 46. Irrigation in Humid Climates. Pp. 27.
  No. 47. Insects Affecting the Cotton Plant. Pp. 32.
  No. 48. The Manuring of Cotton. Pp. 16.
  No. 49. Sheep Feeding. Pp. 24.
  No. 50. Sorghum as a Forage Crop. Pp. 24.
  No. 51. Standard Varieties of Chickens. Pp. 48.
  No. 52. The Sugar Beet. Pp. 48.
  No. 53. How to Grow Mushrooms. Pp. 20.
  No. 51. Some Common Birds in Their Relation to Agriculture. Pp. 40.
  No. 55. The Dairy Herd: Its Formation and Management. Pp. 21.
  No. 56. Experiment Station Work--I. Pp. 30.
  No. 57. Butter Making on the Farm. Pp. 15.
  No. 58. The Soy Bean as a Forage Crop. Pg. 24.
  No. 59. Bee Keeping. Pp. 32.
  No. 60. Methods of Curing Tobacco. Pp. 16.
  No. 61. Asparagus Culture. Pp. 40.
  No. 62. Marketing Farm Produce. Pp. 28.
  No. 63. Care of Milk on the Farm. Pp. 40.
  No. 64. Ducks and Geese. Pp. 48.
  No. 65. Experiment Station Work--II. Pp. 32.
  No. 66. Meadows and Pastures. Pp. 24.
  No. 67. Forestry for Farmers. Pp. 48.
  No. 68. The Black Rot of the Cabbage. Pp. 22.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Note

Illustrations were moved to prevent splitting paragraphs.

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