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"Mare di Vho"

... Above: a historic photograph of the “Sea of Vho” (1915) The tank was split into two separate parts by a wall: the first part, shown behind the people depicted, was used to collect rainwater and water from the drains along the town roads. When the tank was full, a bulkhead was opened and the cleaner water flowed into the other tank, where it was used to provide animals with drinking water or to wash clothes. The liquid sewage settled in the first tank, on the other hand - of the Brotherhood of SS. Sacramento - was instead used as a fertiliser and it used to be said that there was the sea: this sea was basically phantasmagorical, whilst in actual fact there was very little, sometimes no water. And the unfortunate inhabitants of Tortona found themselves battling with a major everyday problem. With a cholera epidemic already underway in summer 1854, the lack of drinking water had caused serious problems, further worsening a situation that was already precarious. Cholera Morbus took a total of 23 victims. In a letter dated 23rd September 1854 sent to the Chairman of the Health Commission and concerning the parish needs, in discussing these dramatic events, the provost Don Bajani wrote: “As concerns disinfecting clothing, blankets, etc. up until now nothing has been done by the relatives of the respective deceased other than to shoulder the items and take them to the laundry in Tortona, given that the only water the town has is turbid and filled with lime; there is not even any drinking water...” Twenty or so years later, the situation in Vho had not improved at all, indeed the lack of water continued to give rise to concern: despite it now being winter, the water level in the two town wells continued to fall lower and lower. The local Vho inhabitants (known as "terrazzani") had run out of patience. Repeated complaints made to administrators had not led to any tangible results and thus on 1st March 1875, armed with pen and paper, the town councillor Eugenio Gobbi drafted his report addressed to the Council, explaining that "in this critical, still harsh season, inhabitants are without drinking water or water for cooking, despite the fact that there are two wells and a spring”, specifying that “the wells have dried up over the last few days, and the spring lies a fair distance from the town along a very difficult, steep path", making it difficult to reach. In this emergency, the report continued, “the population is forced to use the water obtained from the snow that has fallen and there is not much and what there was is now coming to an end”.
In these serious circumstances, the reporters could do no more than ask the Council to seriously consider the “subject of the report and promptly take the necessary steps as considered most appropriate and shared in the interests of the undersigned”.


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