Duncan and Newlands were convinced that there was a clear link between cleanliness and disease. One of the main problems was the lack of an effective sewerage system in Liverpool. Toilets were often communal, with cesspits that had to be emptied by a local farmer who would use the contents as fertilizer. Waste from these privies and waste water would seep into unpaved streets and sometimes into water pipes. Natural streams provided the main source of disposal for this waste. In 1848 James Newlands? sewer construction programme began, and over the next eleven years 86 miles of new sewers were built. Between 1856 and 1862 another 58 miles were added. This programme was completed in 1869.
Despite Newlands? opposition, it was decided that these sewers would discharge into the River Mersey. By 1938 there were nineteen separate outfalls along the river, between the Bootle boundary to the north and the Speke suburbs to the south. At one point Liverpool and the Wirral had twenty-eight sewer outfalls along the shore. Some of the waste from the suburbs went to sewage farms. A system of sewers ran along the line of the old streams and ran to the Fazakerley sewage treatment plant, where it was treated. Sewage from West Derby and Walton drained to two adjoining sewage farms.
Following a report published in 1873, work was carried out on the sewers until they were in good condition and properly ventilated. Some sewers were built to be self-cleansing, others were flushed with water from large moveable tanks placed over manholes.
Contemporary reports highlighted a link between water supply and health. At the beginning of the 18th century water was taken from springs and shallow wells. Later private companies attempted to supply the town with water, but the supply remained inadequate. In 1846 the Town Council employed three engineers to investigate the problem. The solution was the construction of reservoirs at Rivington Pike, that would impound the upper waters of the Rivers Douglas and Roddlesworth in Lancashire. In 1847 the supply was municipalised, with the Town Council taking over the Rivington
scheme and the private companies. However, the water from Rivington was not a great success as it was slightly yellow in colour and the people of Liverpool refused to drink it. Most people were suspicious as they were used to drinking clear water from the wells. It was decided, therefore, that it would need to be mixed with the well water. Demand continued to exceed supply and the situation was made worse by droughts, such as the Great Drought in 1865 that resulted in restrictions on water supply.
The Water Engineer at the time, Mr. Thomas Duncan, looked for areas where another lake could be built. In 1879 it was decided to build a dam at Vyrnwy in Central Wales. Building work began in 1881 and water was first sent through the Vyrnwy aqueduct to Liverpool in July 1891.
The creation of the Celyn Lake Reservoir in the 1960s was a controversial development in the history of Liverpool?s water supply. The village of Capel Celyn and the Tryweryn Valley were drowned in 1965 in order to supply water to Liverpool. There was great opposition to the scheme in Wales, but despite protests the scheme went ahead and the Lake was opened on the 28th October 1965.
Public Health ? suggested further reading:
Ellison, Peter and Paulette Howe, Talk of the Wash House
Picton Press, Liverpool (1997)
Frazer, W.M., Duncan of Liverpool
Carnegie Publishing Ltd., Preston, Lancashire (1997)
Morris, Maggi and John Ashton, The Pool of Life ? a public health walk in Liverpool
Department of Public Health, Liverpool (1997)
H 362.10942753 MOR
White, Brian D., A History of the Corporation of Liverpool 1835-1914
C. Tinling & Co. Ltd., Liverpool (1951)
H 352 WHI
Handbook compiled for the Congress of the Royal Institute of Public Health
Liverpool Congress, July 1903
Hq 352.5 HOP