Punch,  37 (1859), 80.

The Serpentine Through a Sieve



News-Commentary, Drollery


Sanitation, Pollution, Chemistry, Natural Economy

    Criticises the plan of the Chief Commissioner of Works, Henry Fitzroy, to filter the filth of the Serpentine river. Points out that transporting the filth to a place where it will be exposed to the sun will cause nasty and harmful gases to be emitted. Acknowledging the ability of chemists to manufacture pleasant odours from 'the foulest dregs', suggests that a chemist tell Fitzroy of a similar process for transforming the Serpentine filth. Proceeds to discuss Robert Stephenson's contribution to the debate. Doubts Stephenson's judgement that the river is not in an 'offensive condition' but points out that Fitzroy's plan of pouring limewater into the river is killing its fish. In opposition to Fitzroy's proposal to filter the river by gradual washing with limewater, suggests that the river be stocked with eels that 'would assimilate its organic impurities'. Concludes by noting that if science cannot sweeten the river then ducks should be used 'to eat up all the mud'.

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