, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 245-264

Concerns About Infectious Hepatitis and Delacorte's Welfare Island Fountain

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Abstract

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.