Rotary Meetings

Guest Speaker

Thursday 10th Nov 2016

Guest Speaker


Life and Times of a Sewer Rat

On 10th November our guest speaker Geoff Wood, a retired Civil Engineer, gave a presentation and talk about his work in sewers and sewage. Working for United Utilities he was responsible for 37, 000 miles of sewers. A growing population created water contamination in rivers causing disease and death. People began to realise the essential need to separate clean water from waste. There was no means of taking sewage away and often it was simply rotting away underneath buildings. In 1858 during an extremely hot summer, when the River Thames had become a river of sewage, thousands died and the Houses of Parliament became so smelly that MPs demanded action. Sir Joseph Bazalgette, a distinguished civil engineer of the period, proposed keeping waste water and sewage separate and so improvements began with the construction of 83 miles of 

Interceptory sewers preventing sewage from running into the Thames and took it to the east of London where it could be put into the river with minimal effect on the population. It also involved the building of 3 major pumping stations. He made probably the single biggest contribution to the health of Victorian Londoners. It is because of his work that the Thames is now the cleanest metropolitan river in the world. And it’s because of him that cholera, along with other diseases such as typhoid, are now part of British history. Today's biggest problems in maintaining the sewers are collapses and flooding which is becoming all too frequent an occurrence.

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