Waterwise Wednesday: Thanks, Ellen

Ellen Swallow Richards

Ellen Swallow Richards is more well known as the Mother of Ecology and founder Family and Consumer Science or Home Economics, but we credit her with modern municipal sewage treatment too.

In 1887, Richards and her associates conducted a water quality study of Massachusetts’ inland waters which were polluted with municipal sewage and industrial waste. This led to the to the first state water-quality standards in the nation and the first modern municipal sewage treatment plant, in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Richards served concurrently as official water analyst for the Massachusetts State Board of Health and as an instructor in MIT’s sanitation chemistry program for ten years, 1887-1897.

Photo: Science History Images

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