In 1858, London was engulfed by a smell so bad that the pungent odor hovering over the city was given its own name. Even the blinds at the houses of parliament had to be soaked in lime of chloride to protect politicians from the afflictions it was believed to cause. By this point, Londoners had been dumping thousands of tons of raw sewage into the Thames on a daily basis. The combination of raw sewage and an unusually hot summer led to not just the smell, but a devastating outbreak of cholera in the world’s most populous city.
What Londoners didn’t know was that it wasn’t the smell that was causing cholera, but the simple fact that they were drinking the water from the very river they were dumping sewage into. To hide the smell, Victorian engineer Joseph Bazalgette was hired to create a network of sewers beneath the city. His sewers were a huge success but today they’re at full capacity and the Thames is once again at risk of pollution.
To help provide a cleaner Thames, Ferrovial Construction is working as part of a joint venture to build the central part of what is known as the Thames Tideway super sewer.
This episode of Sounds Like Infrastructure was produced by Craig Lawless and Nicholas Hewson. Original music and editing by Craig Lawless. If you liked this episode, share it with your friends or go to our channel to listen to other cool stories!
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