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News Article

Springwater’s Complaint

By Unknown Author - The Livonia Gazette

13 June 1890

Springwater Claims that Damming Hemlock Lake Outlet Injures the Public Health

Lewis Balch, secretary of the State Board of Health, has forwarded Chief Engineer Tubbs a copy of a petition sent to that board by the board of health of the village of Springwater, signed by 140 residents of the village, asking relief in a matter in which the city of Rochester is concerned.

The petition states: The village of Springwater contains about 600 inhabitants and the valley in which it is situated is about five miles long and from one-half to three-fourths of a mile wide, with a north and south trend, between high hills on either side.

At the foot of the valley and to the north of the village, and about three miles distant therefrom, lies Hemlock Lake, from which the City of Rochester draws its water supply. Two streams of water into which flow a large number of smaller streams run through this village and empty into the lake. These streams become almost dry in summer, but of late years in times of heavy rain, as at present, they overflow their banks and form an almost unbroken sheet of water from hill to hill for nearly one-half the distance from the lake to the village, depositing a large quantity of matter to decay under a summer’s sun and throw off its poison for the people of the valley and vicinity to breath.

This condition of things is made worse by the action of the City of Rochester in damming the outlet to the lake and holding the water back, causing the overflowing of the lands between the lake and the village. Prior to the construction of the water works by the city the outlets were kept open, and the water passed off freely, so that though the water covered the low lands in the immediate vicinity of the lake after heavy rains, it soon ran off and little inconvenience was experienced. Now it is held back for days and weeks, covering the lowlands, and destroying vegetation, poisoning the soil and leaving a mass of matter to fester and decay and breed disease and death.

Some sixty years ago a dam was constructed across the outlet at the foot of the lake, and in consequence the water was forced back upon this valley in precisely the same manner that it now is by the City of Rochester and with like results - ague and malarial fevers prevailed to an alarming extent, and the inhabitants arose en masse and destroyed the dam.

Today, by the enlightened and selfish policy of a city of 150,000 inhabitants, the same evils, the same danger to health in this valley, and the same damage to farms are forced upon us, and matters are getting worse from year to year. Last autumn there was much sickness in this valley, unusual for a place generally so healthy, some of the cases assuming a typhoid form. We believe, and in this we are sustained by the opinions of three practicing physicians, that this sickness was due to and caused wholly by the malaria from decaying vegetable matter arising from the wet and overflowed land referred to, blown upon us by the north winds. It was an unusually wet season and the lands were covered with water to an extent never known before, even by the oldest inhabitants. Today the same condition of things exists; the lake is higher than it has been known to be in years, with no prospect of relief or abatement except by the slow process of evaporation under the heat of a summer’s sun.

An effort was made by the officials of the City of Rochester to make it appear that the sickness was caused by the bad condition of the wells, and water from a number of them was taken to be analyzed. Of the results of the analyzation we have not yet been advised. If it confirmed the theory advanced, why have not the citizens of this place been informed and warned against the continued use of the water? If the sickness was caused by using the water, why did it cease on the approach of cold and frost? Why did it not prevail during the winter and why does it not prevail today? For the water has been used almost constantly and is being used now. There has not been a sickness of the kind that prevailed last autumn for many weeks.

The petition concludes by repeating the statement that the sickness was caused in the manner first named, and the belief that the City of Rochester could remove the cause by opening the outlets to their original depth and permitting the water to run off freely.

Mr. Tubbs says that the city has never altered the depth of the outlets, but on the contrary the outlets had been enlarged so that the water could run off more freely. He claims that the unusual overflow this year was due to the excessive rains of the season. In concluding his report to the State Board of Health Mr. Tubbs says that the executive board respectfully requests that the secretary or a committee of the State Board of Health will take an early occasion to visit the locality in question, and by a personal examination satisfy themselves as to whether there is any merit in the petition in question.