Resisting co-operation

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 14-Sep-2017


Herbert Keck was determined to improve his soil quality.

For some considerable time the Bendigo council and councillors had been investigating the best methods of night soil removal. By the middle of 1891 the councillors had decided that they should use a daytime collection service for the pans.

Additionally the council wanted to institute lidded pans as these would allow them to be sealed, thus making their journey to the depositing site far more hygienic. 

New contracts for this service were introduced these having been duly advertised. 

Three contractors submitted a price for collecting the pans, depositing the night soil and washing the pans before they were exchanged on a weekly basis at the 5000 households in that period.

Contractors Duggan and Brasier submitted a price of ninepence per can for collection, whereas R Miller quoted fourpence per can and Martino (Matin) Ferrari would be prepared to do it for threepence and a farthing per pan. 

Naturally the finance conscious councillors of the day favoured the price set by Ferrari and sons. 

Ferrari’s quotation compared favourably to that which the city of Hobart enjoyed for their collection service. The lowest tender would equate to about 13 or 14 shillings for every household in the municipality per year.

Residents who lived on the outskirts of the city were quick to seek exemptions for this new service, perhaps this is a familiar scenario for ratepayers who also sought exemption with the introduction of the green bins last year.

Councillor John Paul Carolin was a little more cautious, he suggesting that the council wait for the confirmation of a Board of Health by-law’s publication in the Government Gazette. 

Carolin persuaded the other councillors to take this approach before the contract with Ferrari was signed. 

As a result the Town Clerk was instructed to write to the Board of Health to see how this matter could be expedited. The urgency was evident as the existing manure depots were already beyond capacity.

Ratepayers were to be instructed to prepare their closets or outhouses for the reception of the new pans. 

The back of these mostly weatherboard buildings needed to have a shutter or small door fitted to allow the night man to remove the used pan and substitute a clean empty one on a weekly basis. 

In the case of brick structures it was more challenging to create the shutter, there are still some examples where these were, as on the grandstand at the QEO, facing towards View Street. These shutters have now long been bricked up when the area was connected to the reticulated sewer system.

The population at large, were becoming quite conscious about improved sanitation as there had been a great deal of publicity about the health benefits for the community as a whole. 

As was mentioned at the time in 1891 “the old system was expensive and disgusting.” The new pans were fitted with close -fitting lids and to be conveyed in covered wagons, these improvements would make a big difference in eliminating to some extent the smell emanating from the pans during transport.

Taking the initiative the council ordered the new pans and the steam boiler which was to be used for sterilising the pans once they had their contents deposited in trenches or pits.

Keck’s land at Spring Gully was considered ideal as there were no near residents, the system of its disposal was considered to be near perfect.

It was argued, that although the new depot was just inside the Shire of Strathfieldsaye boundary there appeared to be certainty that there would be co-operation on this important matter.

It was pointed out that there was nothing to be gained by any antagonistic feelings on a matter of public health and welfare. There was the desire expressed that there would be a willing and conciliatory spirit that should exist. 

As pointed out last week there was no willing conciliation, Keck was hauled to court and fined by Strathfieldsaye.


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