Friday, January 11, 2008

Stinky Stony Brook

This is the last of three articles relating to Stony brook between Green street and Forest Hills. By this time, the work of covering the brook between Green and Williams streets was finished, but the section between Williams street and Forest Hills was still exposed. I think we can assume that the same problem described below had also existed downstream before the conduit was built. In our ecologically conscious times, it's hard to imagine turning a brook into a sewer, but for the people living along Stony brook in Jamaica Plain, it must have been a great improvement. Maybe elderly residents remembered a clean stream flowing through the district, but the residents of Union and Brookside avenues and Amory street would have been happy to be rid of the stench of an open sewer.

Dr Gerry was active in Jamaica Plain community life, and lived at 2 Everett street.

The Jamaica Plain News June 6, 1908

Regarding Stony Brook

Dr E. Peabody Gerry Reports to Mayor Hibbard Its Sanitary Condition and Improvement Follows.

The following communications are largely self-explanatory and of much local interest, referring as they do to a matter of great importance in the West Roxbury District.

The conditions of portions of Stony Brook was brought to the attention of Mayor Hibbard by Dr. Gerry, as one result of his investigation of the sanitary conditions in the section in reference to the typhoid epidemic, and it will be gratifying to the local public to know that this investigation is resulting in improvement, even though the conditions were not, aside from this section of Stony Brook and certain unsprinkled streets, particularly bad.

The communications follow:

Jamaica Plain, May 21, 1908
Honorable George A. Hibbard:
Dear Sir: --

I would report, that I have twice visited Stony Brook from Williams street, to Forest Hills Station, and yesterday was along Meehan street. I find a good deal of odor coming from the brook which seems to me to be of a sewage origin. I would recommend that the brook at this point be cleaned as soon as possible before the hot weather comes, which makes it very disagreeable. This will make hot weather cleaning less objectionable. It should be done very soon as it is not as well to stir such things up in hot weather. The smell is especially pronounced at Williams street, where there is a sort of cascade. As Stony Brook flows through a valley whose watershed is such streets as Wenham, Morton, Rosemary, St Rose, Hall, and other streets, where typhoid has been and is still rife, it appears the part of prudence to have it cleaned, before the summer sun or drought renders it unhealthy to say the least. Uncovered Stony Brook is still more or less of an open sewer draining the land on both sides, which has not as yet the boon of a proper sewer. The cascade near Williams street, produces air currents which, coming from an unclean brook, diffuse the odors in greater numbers than do quieter waters. Major Horrocks of the English Army, has shows that Petri's plates suspended in the ventilating of an intercepting trap nine feet above the surface of soapy water containing the bacillus prodiglosus were infected readily, thus showing that currents of air passing up the vertical pipe could carry bacteria separated by the bursting of bubbles. Similarly, he found that bubbles rising naturally through stagnant water in a catchpit may eject bacteria, which will be carried away by currents of air passing over the surface of the fluid. That is what Stony Brook will be when it becomes drier. The odor from Stony Brook at this point suggests an analogy to the experiments of Major Horrocks that is not reassuring. They indicated that at least the cause for harm should be eradicated. The branch of the brook back of the engine house, Roslindale, also needs attention. The sewer through the old bed of the brook near Belgrade avenue, is progressing and dry, the brook having been turned, I understand, into the sewer. Stony Brook will continue a menace until it becomes a sewer instead of being a brook.

(Signed) E. Peabody Gerry.

To the above letter Dr Gerry received the following reply from acting deputy supt. of streets, C.R. Cutter, the communication bearing the approval of Supt. of Streets.

Dear Sir: --

I return herewith communication from Dr E. Peabody Gerry, in regard to the condition of Stony Brook, from Williams street to Forest Hills Station, West Roxbury District. I would state that the portion of Stony Brook south of Williams street to Forest Hills does need cleaning, and with your permission I will put six (6) of the suspended men from the West Roxbury yard to work here Monday morning, June 1, cleaning out this piece of the brook.

For 900 feet south of Williams street we are now drawing up a contract to construct the commissioners channel and the low level sewer. This will relieve all of the trouble that the doctor speaks of. It is the worst section for pollution there is on the brook at the present time. The other portion of the brook that he mentions - Roslindale branch in the rear of the engine house - I attended to last week. That portion of Roslindale Brook conduit to Belgrade avenue, of which Dr Gerry speaks, we are now constructing and will probably have it finished withing five or six weeks.

(Signed) C.R. Cutter
Acting Deputy Superintendent.

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