How Joseph Bazalgette saved London from the Great Stink

The summer of 1858 was a time that the people of London will never forget. The smell of raw sewage wafted through the air, making it unbearable for Members of Parliament to sit in their rooms facing the river. This was the Great Stink, and it was caused by the sewage of two and a half million people pouring into the Thames. But it wasn’t just a bad smell; it was a public health crisis. The sewage polluted the water supplies, causing disease and death. In this article, we will explore how the engineer, Joseph Bazalgette, transformed London’s sewer system and saved the city from this terrible problem.

The Construction of the London Sewers

Joseph Bazalgette was an experienced engineer who had already worked on several successful projects in the city. His design for the London sewers would be his greatest success. The first challenge was to build a sewage system that could handle the flow of wastewater from two and a half million people. Bazalgette decided to use a gravity system, in which the main sewers would be sloped so that the water would flow naturally to the treatment plant.

The main sewers were built of brick and had a cross-section of approximately 2.1 meters wide and 2.7 meters high. This allowed them to manage large quantities of water and waste. To prevent the sewers from flooding and sewage flowing back into the rivers, Bazalgette also built the Victoria, Albert, and Chelsea levees. These embankments prevented the stagnation of water in the sewers, preventing the formation of sludge deposits and preventing the return of wastewater to the Thames.

The Impact of Bazalgette’s Work

Bazalgette’s work was an instant success. The new sewers were able to handle the enormous quantities of wastewater produced by London’s growing population, solving the problem of the Great Stink of the Thames. In addition, the Thames Estuary Treatment Plant, built to clean wastewater, proved highly effective in preventing the spread of disease.

But Bazalgette’s work wasn’t limited to building sewers. In the course of his work, he also built many roads, bridges, and parks that improved the lives of Londoners. Overall, Bazalgette’s work changed the face of London, making it a safer and cleaner city.

The Legacy of Bazalgette’s Work

Joseph Bazalgette’s work is still benefiting London today. The sewer system he designed is still in use, over 150 years later. His design was so effective that it was used as a model for other cities around the world. His legacy also lives on in the many parks and public spaces he designed. Bazalgette’s work transformed London from a city that was unlivable to one that was safe, clean, and beautiful.

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