“One Water” Featured Water System – Rumford Water District

John D. Halacy, Superintendent
Home of the of the Leader of the “1972 Clean Water Act”,
Sen. Edmund Muskie

In the late 19th century, the town of Rumford was growing quickly due to the paper mills which stood tall in this industrial community. As a result of this growth, excavation of Rumford’s water system began in 1892. One hundred twenty-five men were hired to dig the trenches that were meant to hold sewer pipes 11’ deep. After the construction was completed, many townspeople had indoor plumbing installed in their homes. Ironically at that time, the responsibility of Rumford’s water supply was that of its sewer system.

The town of Rumford became a boomtown in the early 20th century. During this time, there were 3 water systems accountable for Rumford’s water: Rumford Falls and Light Water Company, Union Construction Company and Virginia Spring Water Company. The Rumford Falls and Light Water Co. authorized most of the water distribution system’s construction. The piping infrastructure continued to grow yearly between 1892 and 1911 with hundreds of feet of main extensions being installed. As a result of the town’s growth, these
three small water systems could not keep up with the area’s demand as their reservoirs were limited. Rumford’s expanding mill industry added to the town’s water struggles. The increasing need for water caused the town officials to agree that one unified water system and supply source was necessary. Hence in March 1911, the towns of Rumford and Mexico formed their first Board of Water District Trustees. Shortly thereafter in September 1911, the Rumford and Mexico Water District’s charter was approved by the Maine State Legislature. (The town of Mexico withdrew from the charter in 1950.)

Zircon Dam Completion 1914

Shortly after the charter was approved, the Board employed 2 engineering firms, Metcalf & Eddy of Boston and E. Worthington, C.E. of Dedham, both of Massachusetts. They were assigned the task of finding and assessing a suitable location for a new, larger water reservoir. After considering several regional streams, Mt. Zircon Brook in South Rumford was chosen. The decision was based on the fact that Mt. Zircon Brook was the best water source, and it also had the possibility of a potential dam site. Subsequently, construction commenced on June 1, 1913, for a total price of $110,000. By November 16, 1914, the water from Mt. Zircon’s supply had entered the pipes for general use. Once the reservoir was flooded, it held 110 MG and covered an area of 21 acres. This large reservoir was under constant surveillance during WWII for possible sabotage. The use of the Mt. Zircon Reservoir was discontinued in the 1990’s as a result of the Safe Drinking Water Act making open reservoirs unacceptable in Maine, unless treated prior to consumption

In the later part of the 19th century, Senator Edmund Muskie introduced the Clean Water Act (CWA) on October 28, 1971. A clean and safe environment for all was Sen. Muskie’s aim. This extremely important cause was of the utmost importance to the Senator as he had been born, reared, and experienced life in the booming papermill town of Rumford. He knew firsthand about the pollution challenges Rumford and other towns across the United States faced after decades of reckless treatment of American water bodies. The Clean Water Act became law on October 18, 1972, due to Sen. Muskie’s persistence. Rumford had now become “Home of the Clean Water Act”!

John Fawcett of the Providence Evening Bulletin drew the political cartoon shown to the right. It shows President Richard Nixon trying to water down the Clean Water Bill while Senator Muskie tries to serve the bill “straight up”. This landmark act forced strict regulations and quality controls for America’s waters for the first time in history!

Today, the RWD is a groundwater supplied distribution system serving more than 1,700 customers through no less than 42 miles of water main. The District has 2 water supply sources: Milligan Pump Station and Scotties Pump Station. Their primary source, the Milligan Pump Station has 2 wells with a capacity of producing 1,735 GPM. Scotties Pump Station is their secondary source, again with 2 wells, and with the capacity of producing 700 GPM. Both facilities consist of a total of 4 drilled, gravel packed wells that have a depth between 53’ and 96’.

Combined, these wells have the capacity to store 2 MG with approximately 671,000 GPD being distributed. RWD’s treatment process includes 2 Lowry aeration units used for radon stripping, pH adjustment, corrosion control, as well as the additions of sodium hypochlorite and fluoride. They also maintain 2 covered storage reservoirs (each containing 1 MG). These reservoirs enable RWD to meet peak system demands and help maintain adequate water supply for firefighting with about 219 Eddy fire hydrants. RWD provides potable water to approximately 4,500 consumers.

John Halacy, Superintendent, has been employed by the RWD for 24 years. Together, he and his crew of 1 part-time and 4 full-time employees, and a Board of Trustees (consisting of 3 residents of the district) operate the RWD.

RWD Crew:

John D. Halacy, Superintendent; Charles C. Belgrade, Foreman; Matt Bennett, Utility Worker; Eric Goodrow, Utility Worker; Nicole Baltrus, Office Manager

RWD Board of Trustees:

James A. Thibodeau, Chairman; Bradford S. Adley, Treasurer; Richard C. Blanchard, Clerk


Jointly, John and his crew have a combined total of 47 years of service. John stated, “We have a majority of relatively new staff. So, most everyone is learning their new positions and getting more comfortable every day.” He also feels that the staff are proficient simply because they care. Additionally, he said, “I think they stand out because they take pride in their work. It’s getting harder to find that quality today.”

Milligan’s Pump Station

RWD realizes the importance of “good” customer service. “listening to the customer is key, they need to feel like you care and are trying to help if they need it.”, according to John. As might be expected, they’re open to the public if a customer prefers a oneon-one conversation. “The other is if a customer calls, he/she will get an actual person who is always willing to help to take care of them. We have a great office staff!” John is of the opinion that good customer service is necessary because you want the customers’ trust. Simply, “They are entrusting us to supply them with safe drinking water. They are paying their bills, so you want them to be happy and content,” noted John.

Recently, the District had a start-up of a new booster/reducing valve station. It reduces the pressure of the water from the upper system before it goes into the lower system. It also has booster pumps that can supply the upper system from the lower system if needed in emergency situations. Currently, they’re installing a main between 2 streets as the current main runs behind houses which would make main repairs difficult in the event of a problem. When John was asked if there were any current challenges at RWD, John responded, “There always seem to be a new challenge that pops up, you always think there, that’s done, and we’re all set.” Sound Familiar?

After more than a century since its inception, the Rumford Water District continues to grow and expand. John and the crew at RWD are ready to confront any obstacle with a can-do attitude. What else would one expect from “The Home of the Leader of the Clean Water Act”? Well done RWD!

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