Wolman’s professional career began as a sanitary engineer with the Maryland State Department of Public Health in 1914 after one year with the U.S. Public Health Service sampling water in a study of water quality on the Potomac River. The position with the health department primarily involved inspection of water and wastewater treatment plants.
Nonetheless, under the tutelage of his boss, Robert B. Morse, he was encouraged to pursue research and publication. A singular bulletin of the department (Morse, 1921) includes 10 papers reprinted from journals published between 1919 and 1921; all are authored or coauthored by Abel Wolman. One of these papers (1919), coauthored with Linn Enslow, a chemist in the department, developed a test for chlorine absorption, which established a controlled method for chlorination of municipal water supplies. The method, assuring safe drinking water, was adopted worldwide, perhaps the most important contribution to public health in the twentieth century.