African Americans' role in areas such as potable water, water, wastewater, reclaimed water, stormwater, and solid waste industry have influenced the way public services are provided today

From composting to flood mitigation to refrigerated trucks, African Americans have played an integral role in the daily safety and convenience of the lives of all Americans. Hillsborough County Water Resources celebrates those important historical contributions to the potable water, water, wastewater, reclaimed water, stormwater, and solid waste industry that have influenced the way services are provided today.

Here are a few highlights of those contributions then and how they are being used today:

George Washington Carver

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, George Washington Carver, an agricultural scientist, inventor, and educator at Tuskegee University, Alabama, sought to revitalize southern soil that had been stripped by cotton. Among his numerous revolutionary contributions to sustainable farming, Carver, who had been born into slavery around 1864, promoted the practice of using compost to reintroduce nutrients and add organic matter to the soil. He showed that using compost for soil revitalization increased its productivity by a hundredfold compared with previous common methods.

Today: Using compost to build soil is a critical practice in organic farming and gardening today, and it is also one of the biggest contributing factors of lawn or landscape plants that can weather dry conditions. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Hillsborough County office offers home composting and worm (vermi) composting workshops to Hillsborough County residents for a $5 fee per household per workshop.

Frederick McKinley Jones 

In 1940, Minnesota-based engineer Frederick McKinley Jones invented the first practical transport refrigeration unit for trucks, a refrigeration system that allows perishable foods to be shipped to further distances and even overseas. This revolutionized the field of transport refrigeration for trucks, planes, railcars, and ships and improved the worldwide food trade by helping to build the modern supply chain. Because of his invention, fresh seasonal produce could be enjoyed throughout the entire year. 

Today: Hillsborough County Water Resources proudly deploys its two 300-gallon mobile refrigerated drinking water Hydration Stations for use at County-attended outdoor events and promote improved quality of life, business and community relations. Hillsborough County's mobile Hydration Station has refrigeration capabilities derived from the initial work of Frederick Jones. 

Hattie Peterson

Hattie Peterson is the first Black woman in the U.S. to hold an engineering degree, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Hattie graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for seven years before joining the Sacramento District in 1954. At the district, she worked in the Hydrology Section of the Sacramento Engineering Department, involved in forecasting floods, flood risk reduction, designing navigation projects, and researching flood-control issues.

Today: Dana Mackey has been a Hillsborough County Government employee for more than 27 years. In 2002, Hillsborough County recognized Mackey for her dedication and service, and as the County's first Black female professional engineer hired under the County Administrator. Mackey attended Tampa's Robinson High School and graduated in 1982. She then graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1987. Afterward, Mackey became the first African American female professional engineer for Districts 1 and 7 of the Florida Department of Transportation. She was also one of the first African American females to complete FDOT's Professional Engineer Trainee Program in Florida. 

Lincoln Walter Hawkins 

During the 1950s, Lincoln Walter Hawkins, a leader in the engineering of polymeric materials for long service life, and his colleagues, made critical contributions to the field of polymer stabilization, creating a polymer coating, now called "plastic cable sheath." This replaced the use of lead with polyethylene to protect telephone cables. The previous lead wire coatings were costly, toxic, and too easily worn down by the weather. Hawkins' polymer was cheaper and safer to use and reduced waste through enhanced durability and long service life.

Today: Hillsborough County's Systems Reliability Division manages the fiber optics and ethernet communications used on all network connections within all water, wastewater, and reclaimed water infrastructure. Modern networks with high-speed internet would not be possible without fiber optics and ethernet communications and Hawkins' invention and contribution to the commercialization of long-lived plastic protective coatings for these communications cables. 

Emmett W. Chappelle  

Emmett W. Chappelle, renowned scientist known for his work in the fields of molecular biology, medicine, food science, and astrochemistry, is best known for his research in bioluminescence, which is light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism. His understanding of enzymes and their reactions to the presence of bacteria paved the way for current technologies used in environmental laboratories throughout the world, including Hillsborough County.

Today: At Hillsborough County's state of-the-art certified Environmental Laboratory, drinking water samples are analyzed for the presence of bacteria and contaminants using the principles discovered by Chappelle to ensure safe drinking water for all in Hillsborough County. 

Posted: 2/13/2024, 5:25:35 PM