Journal of Community Health

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 245-264

First online:

Concerns About Infectious Hepatitis and Delacorte's Welfare Island Fountain

  • Allen D. SpiegelAffiliated withDownstate Medical Center, State University of New York
  • , Florence KavalerAffiliated withDownstate Medical Center, College of Medicine, State University of New York
  • , Arielle A. MetzAffiliated withGeorge Washington University Medical Center

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In 1969, philanthropist George T. Delacorte donated a spectacular water fountain to New York City on the southern tip of Welfare Island. Architects designed the fountain's jet geyser to pump a plume of water from the East River more than 400 feet into the air. Public health experts feared that the water from the heavily polluted East River could be a possible source for the spread of infectious hepatitis. Water droplets could be airborne by the prevailing winds to land on the densely populated east side of Manhattan. Upon the insistence of the New York City Department of Health, the fountain's water intake source was chlorinated. This action was initiated before the discovery of the hepatitis A virus (HAV) in 1973. A miscellany of continuing problems plagued the fountain for about two decades, causing the donor to label the fountain “Delacorte's Folly.” Eventually, Delacorte gave up. In the late 1980s, the fountain ceased spouting and was finally dismantled.

infectious hepatitis waterborne bacteria jet fountain George T. Delacorte chlorination