The Great Stink

The Great Stink cover
The Great Stink by Colleen Paeff. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem

By Colleen Paeff
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Margaret K. McElderry / Simon & Schuster, 2021
40 pages

“No matter how you describe it—smelly, foul, fetid, rank, putrid, bad, or reeking—in the summer of 1858, London’s River Thames STANK.” So begins a hilariously straightforward account of a grim subject: the pollution of the River Thames—and thus, Londoners’ drinking water—with sewage, and the eventual creation of a hygienic sewer system. The system, which pumps sewage from underground pipes into a reservoir and then releases it into the Thames as the tide is flowing toward the ocean, was proposed and engineered by Joseph Bazalgette. But in the centuries before he arrived on the scene, things went from bad to worse. Sixteenth-century London’s sewers were meant simply to carry rainwater to the river. As the population grew, toilets and cesspools were connected to sewer lines to carry waste out of the overcrowded city. Polluted drinking water contributed to several devastating cholera outbreaks before Bazalgette’s plan was approved. Back matter provides information on contemporary “poop pollution” and a timeline. (The practice of dumping sewage into the Thames ended in 1887.)  ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center