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In the summer of 1858, Londoners found themselves in the middle of a big stinking problem. For centuries, the city was abusing River Thames using it as dumping ground for human excrement and industrial waste resulting in a river that was little more than an open sewer devoid of any fish or other wildlife. The stench rising from the river had been a mounting problem for some years priors to the “Great Stink” of 1858. That year, the weather was unusually hot. In the scorching heat, the sewage floating in the Thames started to ferment and gave off a stench so hideous that at the Parliament, curtains were soaked in chloride of lime in a vain attempt to defeat the fetid smell. When that didn’t work, the lawmakers even considered relocating the entire government from the Westminster area to somewhere west away from the nauseous river. Eventually they decided that rebuilding London’s sewer system was the only possible solution. Within a record eighteen days, a bill was created, passed, and signed into law.

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The ornate interior of Crossness Pumping Station in London. Photo credit: Jay Peg/Flickr

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