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Abstract:

Since the Middle Ages Milan obtained its water supply satisfactorily from shallow wells. Significant problems developed during the nineteenth century, however, prompting the Lombard Institute to announce the Cagnola Award for a three-year study project to analyse the water both chemically and physically and to remedy the problem of pollution. The award was made to Angelo Pavesi (1830–96), a chemist, and Ermenegildo Rotondi (1845–1915), a civil engineer. They concluded that cemetery wastewater should be prevented from entering the city and that the number of deep artesian wells should be increased. Some years later, another problem regarding hygiene and water supply arose and it seemed doubtful whether the principal hospital of the city could fulfil the new hygiene requirements. Pietro Canetta (1836–1903) studied the records of the main hospital’s water supply and disposal from 1457, demonstrating that it could be regarded as a model for the supply of good-quality water and for wastewater disposal without polluting the city. Since 1906 all of Milan’s drinking water has been derived from groundwater; untreated wastewater continued to be discharged into rivers until 2004 but since then all water has been treated.

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