The idea of community water had been tossed around Clinton for many years; in fact in 1895 a bill was introduced to the Maine State Legislature to incorporate Clinton Water and Electric Company. Neither water nor electricity was realized at the time. This was six years before Frank L. Besse’s home became the first house in Clinton to have indoor plumbing.
The year was now 1945; the last four years had not been easy for Clinton. Most of the imported products, and products that our military required had been rationed. Many of our young men had been off to war, and their wives held down the home-front. The summers had been hot and dry. All of the wells in the village were hand dug, many with only hand pumps. Almost all of the wells in town had been dry during at least some of the summer months. Many homes did not have indoor plumbing.
The citizens had tried to get town water for most of the first half of the 20th century, but the residents outside of the planned system would not vote to approve it. They didn’t want their tax money to pay for a system that would not benefit them. George Rand was the station agent for Maine Central Railroad in Clinton, a position he had held for more than twenty years. Remember, this was a time when a station agent was quite important with freight, high speed passenger service, as well as sending and receiving telegrams. George had also been our 1st selectman for the past sixteen years before stepping down about a year earlier. He was now determined to finally get public water service for Clinton residents. He clearly understood why the citizens in the rural areas would not want to pay for a town water district. He proposed a “Clinton Water and Sewer District” that was a separate entity so only those that benefited from it would pay for it. He took his plan to the Maine State Legislature and got it approved. In a special meeting of interested citizens held on July 25th, 1945, George Rand made a motion to establish “The Clinton Water and Sewer District”. As chairman, Frank A. Besse announced the motion had carried; fifty-two year old George Edward Rand slumped in his chair and died of a massive heart attack. The charter for the water and sewer district was accepted by Clinton residents at a special election held on the 6th of August 1945, less than two weeks after George’s death.
If any one person was mainly responsible for carrying on George’s dream, it was Vinal Galusha. The water district was not only authorized to supply pure water for domestic, industrial, and other municipal purposes, but also to provide a sewerage facility for the collection and disposal of waste. The sewer system was all gravity fed. By today’s standards this was not a very environmentally secure system. It dumped nearly raw sewage into the Sebasticook River. At that time many people still felt that dumping sewage and factory chemical waste into brooks and rivers was an acceptable method. It was widely thought that pollutants would flow down our streams and rivers into the ocean and dissipate.
A lot of time and effort had gone into discussing the town’s water problem before the district was approved, but after the initial step the citizens were faced with the fact that they had the Clinton Water District without a drop of water. The original plan was to get water from the extremely polluted Sebasticook River and run it through a giant gravel filter. Engineers studied the proposal and determined it would not be cost effective to filter that much volume. There were no other streams or ponds in Clinton that could yield that much water, so a search for an underground water supply started. After test wells at eight locations provided unsuccessful, like providence, water was found on land that had belonged to William Tapley. When the water was struck, the pressure flowed from the ground with such force that sand bags had to be used to hold the water back until the well could be capped. The well is approximately forty feet in depth with a flow of over five hundred gallons a minute. A small bridge to cross the Tannery Brook and a pump-house were constructed down over the hill behind Vern Goodale’s farm. To solve the funding requirements the district was authorized to issue $200,00 worth of 2% 20-year bonds on the 1st of September 1946. In March of 1948, another decree authorized the issuance of $55,000 worth of 3% 20-year bonds to complete the financing. Bids were received and contracts signed late in 1946, and work was started in May of 1947. The construction was completed late in the fall and water began flowing to the customers on the 1st day January 1948. A four hundred thousand gallon water tank was constructed on the south side of the Channing Road (this is now the McNally Road) at the top of Gospel Hill. During the original construction the water district installed 34 of the now 65 fire hydrants along the roads they serviced. The town pays the water district for this fire protection.
Lawrence “John” Stinson and Lindell Weymouth saw an opportunity to form their businesses as plumbers. They plumbed many Clinton homes during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Most of the rural residents have since had wells drilled and have had modern septic systems installed that have also kept our plumbers busy.
During the first year of operation there were 181 water customers who used approximately fourteen million gallons of water. The trustees were all successful business men from the village; Frank A. Besse (president of Besse Brothers Tannery), Vinal Galusha (owner of Galusha’s Garage and Auto Dealership), and Neal Phelps (president of the Clinton Woolen Mill).
In 1951 the district received the residue of the estate of Mrs. Laura P. Felker in the amount of $2,459.11. In October 1951 a 60 by 150 foot lot was purchased from William and Olive Cowan near the railroad station. The next year a building 24 by 40 feet was erected on the lot for the main purpose of storing salt and the softening equipment. That equipment was removed from the pump-house and installed in the new building. The town is fortunate to have pure water without any purification being required. It is treated to soften it. Fluoride was added from 1969 to 1972. The majority vote of the citizens at a Town Meeting in 1969 approved the decision to add fluoride. Then 3 years later in 1972 the majority vote of the citizens at a Town Meeting repealed it.
Over the first thirty years water service expanded to homes on the outskirts of town. The customer base has increased to 420 water users with 346 of those having sewer service. Sewer was added to some customers in lower elevation that required pumping. In 1979 the water tank on Gospel Hill with the landmark words:
CLINTON WATER DISTRICT
was replaced. The new tank holds about one and one half the volume and is about 67 feet taller. The additional height of the new tank added approximately twenty-five pounds per square inch of water pressure to all of the water customers. Soon after the new tank was in place a wooden rooster that had been made by chainsaw artist Philip Wright Sr. was put on the top of the tank. The fire department members Max Cote, Wayne Gerow, and Butch Whittaker attached the rooster there.
The need to stop pouring raw waste into the Sebasticook River was becoming more apparent so the district, with grant money, constructed a lagoon system in 1987. The two lagoons at the end of the Leanard Wood Road are operated in series and cover approximately 26 acres and are approximately five feet deep. The location of the lagoons is at a higher elevation than the village, so the sewerage has to be pumped to the treatment facility from the location where the original sewerage went into the river on the west side of Pleasant Street on the north side of the Sebasticook River. The water district business had been run from the home of the billing clerk for most of the time since it was incorporated, except for a few years when you could pay your bill at the building across the tracks on the Goodale Road. Along with the waste treatment facility, the water district added a business office at the new location on the Old Leanard Wood Road.
Clinton has used the lagoon system to treat the wastewater for their community of about 350 users for almost twenty five years without the removal of sludge. In the first part of this new century the Department of Environmental Protection had been emphasizing the need for towns to remove sludge if it was a problem. Clinton agreed to participate in a study to determine the sludge layer. In October or 2005, the study began with the measurement of the sludge layer of the lagoons. Several core samples were taken. Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much sludge as the DEP would expect after 20 years of usage. A chemical treatment was implemented that would prolong the life of the lagoon before the sludge would need to be removed. This treatment has been working well.
The Clinton Water and Sewer District has received about $4,000,000 in state and federal grants in the last 35 years. It now has three full time employees. The district owns three trucks and a backhoe. It operates under the direction of the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
It has now been 65 years since the original pipes were laid, many of which have been replaced over the last several years.
Most small towns in Maine still do not have a community water and sewer system. There is little infrastructure that a village can provide for its citizens that is more important than a good public water and sewer system. In water tests, the Clinton Water District has continuously had one of the best results for their community drinking water in the state of Maine. Our modern lagoon sewer system is also among Maine’s best.
A special thank you to Buddy Frost and the Clinton Historical Society for their efforts on keeping the past in the present.
The old water tank.