Wastewater - The Early Days


Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Wastewater Treatment

Newspaper Lake Monster Syracuse Herald - October 22, 1919

In the beginning, there were outhouses. As cities became more densely populated, sewers were installed to collect wastewater and carry it away, typically dumping it into a lake or stream.

This early 20th century political cartoon from Syracuse, New York depicts a monster in Canal Harbor on Onondaga Lake. The mayoral candidate criticized his opponent for allowing nearly 100% of the city's wastewater to be dumped into the lake.

The sewage discharge was covering the water with scum and building up sludge deposits that threatened navigation. The stench was strong enough to turn away a ship-board inspection trip by New York's governor. Some believed that rates of infant mortality were high because of conditions in the harbor.

In 1925 the city constructed its first wastewater treatment plant on the shores of Onondaga Lake. Treatment upgrades were implemented throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. The city continues to discharge its treated waste to the lake today.

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