The United States implemented a centralized wastewater treatment program in 1800. Before 1850, wastewater was collected in privies and cesspools built underneath residences, which drained the wastewater underground and allowed it to be absorbed into the surrounding soil. Public underground sewers were built in the 1850s. In 1914, wastewater began to be treated and disinfected with chemicals at the first liquid chlorination plant. In 1960, wastewater treatment plants were built to treat wastewater in the same methods that are used today.
Although the actual treatment of wastewater is a recent development, people as far back as the Roman empire were using open sewers to wash waste water away from the streets and thoroughfares. In the 1800’s London developed its own sewer system, and the movement went on from there until sewers came to the US in the 1850s. Finally, the connection was made between the bacteria present in wastewater and disease outbreaks, and efforts were made to develop the technology of wastewater treatment, with the first step being keeping wastewater away from drinking and irrigation water.
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