Department of Public Health Regulations on Water Faucet Use in Poston

Article published by Poston Chronicle depicting regulations of faucet usage in Department of Public Health

On October 4th, 1943, a newspaper article was published in the Poston Chronicle highlighting the regulation of faucet and water usage in the Japanese relocation center barracks located in Poston, Arizona. The regulations, which were released by the camp’s Department of Public Health, clearly outlined certain guidelines for the Japanese American internees in regards to what was allowed and what was not permitted with the faucets located in the barracks. As a pioneer health educator, Jean decided to clip this article and keep it in her collection of papers in order to expose the water problem in Poston’s center. The restrictions outlined in this document were intended to boost hygiene practices but ultimately had little impact on improving the hygiene and health of Japanese internees located in the Poston relocation center.

Poston’s camp was the largest of all relocation sites. Located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, the Poston area spanned across 72,000 acres with a population of around 18,000. Within Poston, there were three main cantonments, known as Poston I, II and III that were bounded by a fence. Each cantonment had barracks where living conditions were very cramped for families (Jean 2). Because the Colorado River was located 2.5 miles west of the center of camp and also located in the lower Sonora desert, the Poston center experienced extreme weather conditions with hot and humid summers and incredibly cold winters (Burton, Farrell, Lord). Dust also posed a large problem on the internees (PJD 161). During the afternoons, the harsh sun would make working very hard for people located in the camps. There were multiple dust storms that struck the relocation center, coating everything in silt and dust, ranging from building structures, books and internees hair and clothes (Jean 2). Because of its geographical location and the issue surrounding dust and heat, it was very important for Poston relocation center to have proper access to water around the camp. Each residential area held its own water pump plant as well as a sewage plant, which included pump houses, steel tanks, clarifiers and digesters (Burton, Farrell, Lord).

It is interesting to note that Poston relocation center set restrictions on water usage in spite of the intense weather conditions, as this posed a large threat on the health of those residing in Poston. The publication of the article by the Department of Public Health in Poston stated that the regulations were being enforced because of the “indiscriminate faucet use within barracks,” signifying that attendees in the relocation center were not only wasteful of their water sources but they used water at random times. The first rule stated that forms of laundry and dish washing were prohibited. In typical relocation centers, such as Poston, most dishes were done at the mess halls. However at assembly camps, such as Tanforan, members were able to carry their dirty dishes to the washing counter and use soap to clean the big piles of dishes (Okubo 41). Both Poston and Tanforan had laundry buildings set up. However, in Tanforan, there were indications that there was a “continual lack of hot water” and the rooms for laundry were located far away (Okubo 69). As the regulations listed in the article were already restrictive to begin with, it appears that some camps also experienced issues with purely accessing simple things, like the hot water.

Another restriction mentioned in the document was that morning and evening toilet within the barrack, such as brushing teeth and washing faces was prohibited and only allowed in the latrine. The next stated that there must be a suitable waste receptacle, like a bucket to collect water from underneath the faucet and the wastewater must be disposed of in the latrine. The last regulation was that when bathing was necessitated by the aged or by infants, the used water must be disposed of in the latrine (Poston Chronicle). Because the latrines in most camps were located farther away, this required internees in the camp to travel long distances just to dispose of the dirty water. For example, in the Manzanar camp, people had to go to latrines “two city blocks away” just to use a working toilet (Houston 22). This was a huge inconvenience for the internees not only in that the latrines were far away, but also they were usually crowded so sometimes people went later in the day (Houston 24).

Letter addressed to Dr. A Pressman discussing the sanitation issues with drinking water

The guidelines surrounding the use of the faucets within the barracks in Poston regulated laundry use, dish washing, bathing and disposal issues, but never addressed the actual consumption of water in the camp. However, there were also sanitation issues surrounding drinking water. In a letter addressed to Dr. A. Pressman from Sally Lucas Jean on April 10th, 1945, she states, “something should be done to work out a plan for safe methods of drinking water” (Jean 53). The letter addresses the issue of the drinking facilities in the Poston school and brings up the issue that the problem surrounding sanitation for children remains unsolved. In the letter, Jean talks about her concern with how children are placing their mouths directly over the spout, causing a means of spreading disease among the children. She worries about the infantile paralysis running in the community and its connection to the water faucets.

The letter from Sally Jean Lucas acts as a complement to the first article released by the Department of Public Health that was published in 1943. It appears that two years after its publication, the Poston relocation camp continued to struggle with sanitation issues surrounding water and hygiene remained a major problem. The regulations imposed in the Department of Public Health’s first article aimed toward better water faucet practices, but in the end did not really have much of an impact on the Poston relocation center.


– Lulu Zhong


Works Cited

“Department of Public Health Gives Regulations Regarding Use of Faucets within Barracks.” Folder 74: Scan 8, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Work That Needs To Be Done In The Near Future.” Folder 74: Scan 53, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Health Education in A Japanese Relocation Centre.” Folder 75, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Okubo, Miné. Citizen 13660. Seattle: University of Washington, 1983. Print.

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki., and James D. Houston. Farewell to Manzanar. New York: Bantam, 1983. Print.

Burton, J., M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord. “Poston Relocation Center.” National Park Service: Confinement and Ethnicity. ParkNet, 1 Sept. 2000. Web.