Bazalgette and London's sewage
Once the enabling act was passed, the Metropolitan Board of Works could begin the task under the direction of its Chief Engineer, Joseph Bazalgette (1819-91).
Most schemes for removing London's sewage had planned to carry it inland so it could still be used as fertilizer, but Bazalgette realised this was impractical. Instead, he planned to build main sewers to collect the contents of the existing sewers and take their contents east to be discharged into the Thames.
Bazalgette's scheme consisted of three major elements:
Each of these involved major feats of engineering.
From the intercepting sewers to the pumping stations
On either side of the Thames, three main intercepting sewers captured the sewage from all existing sewers and carried them by gravity eastwards to the pumping stations at Abbey Mills (for the north bank) and Deptford (for the south).
To the Thames via the outfall sewers
The outfall sewers were a massive feat of engineering. The Northern Outfall Sewer was more than 6.5 km (4 miles) long, and crossed the marshes east of the River Lea.
For most of its length, the Northern Outfall Sewer was concealed within a massive embankment. Several bridges carried it across the River Lea and its branches. The scale of the work is still impressive today.
The Southern Outfall Sewer ran underground for much of its length from Deptford to Crossness. At Beckton and Crossness, the sewage was stored in huge reservoirs, from which it was released into the Thames at high tide.
The Thames Embankments
The Embankments on either side of the Thames were another benefit of Bazalgette's scheme. The idea of building embankments to reclaim marshy land along the riverbank had been debated for centuries, but little was done before Bazalgette.
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