Sunday 9 February 2014

Very bad smells in Erith

In 1871 Dr. Ballard, Medical Officer of Health for Islington, reported on bad smells on the lower Thames. Here is what he had to say about Erith works

Bevington's Manure Works. —Situated about half a mile from the Southern Outfall Pumping Station. These works are small, but have been established several years. The material used is " scutch," -which is the refuse matter left in "the pans in which glue is made. This material is heated in closed pans by steam, with the addition of oil of vitriol, and there is an Arrangement for condensing the vapours which proceed from the pans. Fat is first skimmed off, and the residue, after boiling about three hours, is run off into "delves" or trenches about four feet deep dug into the earth outside the works: these *' delves " are worked alternately. Up to about twelve months ago the pans employed were open. The manure which runs as a semi-liquid material into the "delves " solidifies in them after a time, partly by evaporation and partly by soakage of the more watery parts into the earth. When sufficiently firm the manure is dug out and dried by spreading it on heated plates, or by heaping it over semi- circular brick flues. The effluvia from these stoves or flues are very offensive indeed, and escape freely into the external atmosphere. The odour, which resembles-that of cheese when very much decomposed, pervades the works and their neighbourhood.

Brown's Glue and Manure Works are carried on in premises ad joining Bevington's. These works have been established a great many years, during which they have been a constant source of nuisance to persons passing up and down the river. Two manufactures are carried on here. One is that of glue from the clippings of hides used by tanners, horses' hoofs, &c, These matters arrive at the works in a more or less putrid condition, and no means whatever are in use to prevent the escape of the highly offensive vapour from the pans in which they are boiled into the atmosphere outside the works. The offensiveness of the vapour would naturally vary with the degree of decomposition of .the material boiled.   The "scutch," which remains after the making of the glue, is dealt with as at Bevington's Works, the only difference being that no means are in use here to condense the vapour proceeding from the pans in which the " scutch " is heated with acid. These works are the most offensive upon the river, and the putrid sickening odour from them -travels for many miles. It has been distinctly recognized by the Manager of the Beckton Gas Works at his residence, a distance of three miles, and also by Dr. Gordon at the Woolwich Barracks, a distance of about four miles.

Price's Oil Refinery Works- Established here nine years. The premises altogether cover ten acres, but only a portion of this space is covered by the building's. Various oils are refined here, such as fish oil, rape oil, Rangoon oil and American oil. The odour from these works only extends to a short distance from them. Bi-sulphide of carbon is also made here, but no offensive smell is recognizable in or about the part of the works devoted to this manufacture

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