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Sharon Kleyne Praises Clean Water Pioneer John L. Leal

Sharon Kleyne, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water, Global Climate Change and Your Health on VoiceAmerica, recently talked on her program about how she is looking forward to World Water Day on March 22nd, but she also used the occasion to remind listeners of an important distinction. World Water Day, Kleyne pointed out, is an occasion for looking ahead with visionary eyes, yet it is also a chance to pause and consider where we’ve been.

For instance, Kleyne noted that March 23th was the death anniversary of one of the great innovators in water history. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, John L. Leal served as sanitary advisor to private water companies at the beginning of the 20th century. By 1909, as America was wracked with typhoid fever and other diarrheal diseases, Leal came to the then unpopular decision to add a chemical disinfectant to drinking water. Having watched his own father die a lingering, painful death at the hands of typhoid fever, Leal was determined to win over popular opinion and save lives.

“Water research today faces some of the same problems,” said Kleyne. “We’re reluctant to invest in new water research and because of that we run the risk of making worse our global clean water crisis.” In 1909, no chlorine feed system treating 40 million gallons of water per day had ever been designed or constructed. Enlisting the aid of the brilliant designer, George Warren Fuller, Leal built his super water purifier for Jersey City in 99 days. The feed system worked flawlessly and is still working today.

“Equally important was the development of similar feed systems throughout the country,” said Kleyne. As a result of Leal’s vision and execution, millions of people prospered drinking clean water. Typhoid was effectively eradicated and hundreds of thousands of children no longer died before their first birthdays.

“We need to get back to water planning and development,” said Kleyne, “if we want to cure contemporary illnesses and supply more people with fresh, safe water to drink.” Kleyne pointed to water shortages everywhere, especially in underdeveloped nations, and said that Leal’s courage and spirit should guide us to more proactive research and discoveries regarding our water. “On World Water Day,” Kleyne concluded, “yes, let’s look ahead, but let’s also remember the heroic contributions made by John L. Leal to public water health and safety.”

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