There was an interesting article in a recent edition of The New York Times about the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison. He was in office for the shortest amount of time – just a month – before his death. It was thought for a long time that he died from pneumonia, but now it is thought that deadly bacteria lurking in Washington, D.C.’s water supply at that time might have had something to do with it instead.
At that time, D.C. had no sewer system. And as is stated right in the above mentioned article, “some sewage simply flowed onto public grounds a short distance from the White House, where it stagnated and formed a marsh.” That area would have the perfect area for deadly bacteria to grow and find its way into the nearby water supply. The symptoms that Harrison had were more related to the gastrointestinal problems that arise from the bacteria than from pneumonia.
Today, water systems need to meet the U.S. EPA’s standards for safe drinking water by monitoring more than 90 contaminants daily. We are thankful for the men and women that protect our drinking water!