Southington Water
(860) 628-5593
605 West Queen St, Southington, CT 06489
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The First 100 Years of the Southington Water Dept

February 27, 2019

Compiled by Samuel W. Bowers from old books, maps, records. Southington Histories and from firsthand knowledge gained from his association with the Water Wors for over sixty of its first one hundred years.

  In the year 1880, the Town of Southington, with a population of 5,411 was a thriving industrial village, entirely dependent on its water uses on domestic wells. The major industry, the Peck, Stow 8c Wilcox Company had three large factories, one in Southington, one in Plantsville and another on Summer Street, half-way to Plantsville. The Southington Cutlery Company was located on Center Street and the Aetna Nut Company, a large steel rolling mill, occupied the area was used by the Water Department for its office, garage and its first well site. At the intersection of West Street and Marion Avenue, the factory of the H.D. Smith was located. Other industries were found in the southern part of town.

   Practically all of these factory buildings were large, wooden, multiple-story structures and it is without doubt that the apparent need for fire protection activated the owners of these factories to consider the possibility of constructing an adequate water supply. The first move in this matter was made on October 11, 1881 by the Peck, Stow 8c Wilcox Company when, at a meeting of the directors, the following action was taken, "Voted: That O.W. Stow and T.H. McKenzie (local engineer) be authorized to make surveys and take such action as they may deem proper to procure a charter for a water company".

   During the fall of 1881, Mr. McKenzie made investigations and preliminary surveys and he determined that it would be possible to obtain a sufficient water supply from any one of four sources at an estimated cost of less than $100,000.

   At the January session of the state legislature in 1882, a liberal charter was granted after overcoming the objections of some mill owners who feared their water rights would be affected. This charter provided a maximum capital of $100,000 but it was decided to limit the original offering of $60,000 of stock, 600 one-hundred-dollar shares. The four large industries subscribed 310 shares and twenty-two individuals subscribed a total of 140 shares. A concentrated effort was made to raise the additional $15,000 but there seemed to be a considerable reluctance on the part of the general public to invest their own money in this new venture.

   However, at a town meeting, it was voted to subscribe to the required $15,000 in stock, but in order for the Town to own stock in a private corporation it would have to be so authorized by a special act of the state legislature and this was done at the 1883 session. This enabling act contained a provision providing that, if the Town so voted within twenty years, it would have the right to acquire the entire water works. The amount to be paid to the Water Company would be the entire sum expended on the works, plus interest at six percent, less any dividends that had been paid. This provision later became the cause of a long, bitter court battle.

 

LIST OF ORIGINAL STOCKHOLDERS

Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co. 180 Shares      Chas D. Barnes  5 Shares
Town of Southington 150 Shares      John Hemingway  5 Shares
H.D. Smith & Co.  50 Shares      T.H. McKenzie  5 Shares
Southington Cutlery Co.  40 Shares      J.F. Pratt  5 Shares
Aetna Nut Co.  40 Shares      George B. Finch  5 Shares
R.A. Neal  20 Shares      Samuel Pratt  5 Shares
J.B. Savage  20 Shares      C.F. Hamlin  5 Shares
O.W. Stow  20 Shares      Wm. L. Ames  3 Shares
Amon Bradley  10 Shares      J.F. Brewer  2 Shares
M.N. Woodruff  10 Shares      H.H. Nichols  2 Shares
N.H. & Northhampton R.R. Co.  10 Shares      Stephen Walkley 1 Shares
Chas L. Campbell   5 Shares      E.G. Neal  1 Shares
       Total 600 Shares

   

 There now being assurance that the required capital would be raised, a call was issued for a meeting of the stockholders to be held on March 28, 1883 at 10 o'clock A.M. at the Selectmen's office. At that meeting the following directors were elected: 0.W. Stow, A.A. Neal, T.H. McKenzie, J.F. Pratt, J.B. Savage, Amon Bradley and Chas W. Hall.

  At a meeting of the directors held the same day, the following officers were elected: President - O.W. Stow, Vice-President - J.B. Savage, Secretary - T.H. McKenzie and Treasurer - Stephen Walkley. T.H. McKenzie was appointed engineer and authorized to make surveys, plans and estimates and to employ a consulting engineer to assist with the work.

  The services of a consulting engineer from New York, J. J. J. R. Croes were secured and on April 7th he reported to the directors the results of his review with Mr. McKenzie of the four possible sources of water supply.

   1. A valley on the East Mountain could be used for the construction of a storage reservoir, but it was thought that the summer water would not be usable on account of mostly shallow water.

   2. A supply from Roaring Brook on the West Mountain was considered. The elevation of the reservoir would be so great that it would be necessary to construct an intake basin half-way down the mountain and the construction of a pipe line down the rocky terrain would be very expensive. (This supply was later to be developed by the City of New Britain).

   3. It would be practicable to obtain a ground water supply with a well dug in the gravel near the Quinnipiac River with a steam operated pumping station and a 200-foot square reservoir on "Wolf Hill". (Now West Center Street). The cost of this including • the distribution system was estimated at $65,500. Estimated annual pumping cost -$1,180 (160 tons of coal @ $5.75- and 104-days Engr. @ $2.50).

   4. The Humiston Brook supply on Wolcott Mountain was next considered. There was an ample watershed and excellent dam sites and the distance to the town was not excessive. The estimated cost of the water supply and distribution system was $71,460.

The Humiston Brook supply was adopted by the directors and the wisdom of their choice has been amply demonstrated over the years. On May 29, 1883, it was voted to authorize Engineer McKenzie to proceed with the preparation of plans and specifications for the construction of the reservoirs and distribution system at an estimated cost of $85,000. From this point on, remarkably rapid progress was made.

    The storage reservoir has an earthen dam, 525 feet long and 30 feet high with stone masonry and puddle heart wall and impounds 60,000,000 gallons of water covering 23 acres. The construction contract was awarded to C.S. Griswold of Berlin, work was started on July 1, 1883 and completed by November 1, 1884.

   The distributing reservoir with a capacity of 3 million gallons has a stone masonry wall 170 feet long at the top, 16 feet thick at the stream bed and five feet thick at the overflow, 20 feet above the base. Quicksand was encountered and it was found necessary to drive considerable piling and construct a concrete pad at the base. The stone for the masonry was quarried at a site near the construction. This contract was awarded to George F. Lewis of New Britain on July 1, 1883 and also completed by November 1, 1884.

   It is amazing that in the short period of only eighteen months it was possible to prepare complete plans, specifications, award contracts, acquire land and water rights and, with the lack of modern equipment, complete the works. Much credit must be given to Engineer McKenzie, for it was he who was responsible for the entire operation.

  ESTIMATES ON WHICH THE DIRECTORS VOTED TO BUILD

9 1/10 miles of cast iron pipe laid 54 hydrants and 43 gates      $53,390.00 
Storage Reservoir       12,880.00 
Distributing Reservoir        6,120.00 
Land Damage           200.00 
Engineering and Inspection         6,700.00   
Incidentals           710.00
Total   $85,000.00


COST OF WORKS AS ACTUALLY CONSTRUCTED TO NOVEMBER 1, 1884

95/10 miles of cast iron pipes, N mile of l and PA Pipe, 66 hydrants, 52 gates, 152 service pipes to sidewalk                 $49,560.08 
Storage Reservoir and cleaning bed of Reservoir       16,047.41 
Distributing Reservoir and cleaning bed of reservoir         8,060.18
Land and land damage         1,834.52 
Expense account, including engineering and superintendence, inspection, legal expenses, freights, printing stationery, furniture, expenses of securing charter, Tapping machine, and fixtures for laying service pipes to the sidewalk, and interest paid         5,997.20 
Paid Mill Owners for water damages         4,500.00 
Total       $85,999.33 

  In order to meet the total cost of the works, a loan of $27,500 was obtained from the Southington Savings Bank, secured by a mortgage on the entire properties of the water company.

   On September 2, 1884, the directors voted to hold a celebration upon completion of the plant. It was not possible to determine if or when a celebration was held but it was certain that water service was in use late that year. Mr. McKenzie reported at this time that "The capacity of the works is such that they will supply five or six fire streams on any of the manufacturing properties of the town without seriously affecting the pressure". 174 services were installed in 1884 and by the end of 1886 a total of 344 connections had been made. Very soon there were demands for water service outside of the original distribution system and during the years extensions of the mains were made on a continuing basis.

   At the April 1885 directors meeting, it was reported that the water rents from that year would total $3,761 with a small amount due for the previous year. A semi-annual dividend of Ph per cent was declared. In succeeding years, the dividend was increased until it reached a 3% semi-annual which rate was continued paid to the end of the company's operation. There seemed to be no questions of the financial success of the company and this, no doubt affected the decision of the directors, many years later, to resist the efforts of the town to take over the works.

   Water rates on a flat rate basis were established and later a rate for metered uses was adopted but very few meters were ever installed. At nearly every meeting of the directors, a flat rate for some use other than ordinary household use would be voted. Sometimes the rate would be arrived at by barter. An example being the Southington-Plainville Tramway Company, established in 1888. The power station, located on Bristol Street, also brought the first electric service to town. A water rate for the steam boilers in the plant was proposed by the directors and for the next several meetings there were offers, counter-offers and demands. Finally, the directors accepted a final offer of the Tramway, "inasmuch as it was not taking money and was providing a public service".

   Another interesting detail - at places where liquor was being served it was usual to use a water-operated pump to bring the beer from the keg in the basement to the bar. A survey was ordered to determine how many such uses were being made in order to collect the annual charge of $5.00 for each such use. At that time, in 1898, the canvas disclosed the following: In the Southington area one hotel, the Bradley House, and many "saloons", seven on Center Street, two on Railroad Avenue, two on Safety Avenue (now West Center Street), one on Liberty Street, one on North Water Street and one on Bristol Street. Plantsville had only one hotel, the Edson House, and one saloon located on Main Street at West Main Street. The town with a population at that time of 5,800 persons and with seventeen liquor outlets must have been more than adequately served!

   At the April 1897 meeting of the directors, officials of the City of New Britain were present, and they said that they would like to develop the Roaring Brook supply and asked that arrangements be made for the Water Company to release its water rights to the brook. The directors refused to do this at that time but on September 25 of that year New Britain's offer of $9,000 was accepted and water rights released.

  As the system expanded and water use increased it became apparent that steps soon must be taken to increase the supply. In order to provide additional storage, the dam of the storage reservoir was raised one foot in 1884. A committee to select a site for an additional storage reservoir was appointed in 1892. There continued to be water problems in dry years, but no definite action was taken until 1898 when Engineer McKenzie was instructed to draw plans for construction. The work was started in 1899 and later that year it was necessary to severely restrict water uses in order to maintain pressure. The dam was completed in 1900, giving an additional storage capacity of fifty million gallons. We have a photographic record of the directors standing on the bridge to the gate platform of the reservoir on May 26, 1900.

  In 1901, the town decided to exercise its option to purchase the water works and a Special Act of the legislature was enacted, outlining how the plant would be operated under the control of a Board of Water Commissioners. Briefly, this act provided that the commission would have complete control of the operation and finances of the water system with all the powers given to the directors of the water company in its charter. At a town meeting held on April 13, 1901, it voted that the town take over the water works but the company refused to complete the sale and legal action was taken by the town in 1902 with Marcus Holcomb as attorney. It was not until 1911 that the Supreme Court of Errors rendered judgement favorable to the town.

  James H. Pratt, Edward S. Todd and Joseph H. Martin were elected commissioners on May 24, 1911 and these three men served the town faithfully for many years. On May 24, 1911, the town formally took possession of the works with Samuel H. MacKenzie, who had been Superintendent of the water company since 1907, as Superintendent and Engineer at a monthly salary of "not more than $125.00". The Center Street office building which has been used by the water company was rented by the Department. Total payment to the water company for the works was approximately $222,000 which sum was realized by the sale of Thper cent thirty-year bonds. These bonds were sold at a premium of $3,597.50 which sum, together with the $37,710.00 which was returned to the town for its 150 shares of water company stock, formed the working capital with which the water commissioners began operation of the system.

  Almost immediately upon acquisition of the water system, the commissioners inaugurated a program of much needed enlargement and improvement of the plant. This program is continuing today. In 1911, the collection system consisted of three reservoirs with a combined storage capacity of about 104 million gallons. There, reservoirs have been enlarged and improved so that today a storage capacity of 158 million gallons is available.

  Only 152 acres of land on the watershed had been acquired by the water company merely the land immediately surrounding the reservoirs. The Commissioners early saw the advantages of owning additional land on the water shed and various parcels were purchased as they became available. At present, the Town is the owner of 1,414 acres in the towns of Southington and Wolcott, practically the entire water shed. The control of this land is of the utmost value in protecting the quality of the water supply. Much acreage was acquired at very favorable prices as it was bought after timber had been cut.

  The distribution system acquired by the Town in 1911 consisted of about 21 1/2 miles of pipe lines, 11 miles of which were 4 inch or smaller. Almost immediately, a program of strengthening and expanding the system was initiated. A much needed additional 12-inch supply main from the reservoirs to town and extensions to Marion, Milldale and Queen Street were constructed. As of December 31, 1982, we have 146.8 miles of main of which 134.5 miles are from 6 inch to 14-inch pipe.

  The first step in protecting the purity of the supply was taken in 1921 when Southington was among the first to install chlorination equipment. Compared to present day standards it was quite crude. The apparatus was installed in a concrete house, heavily covered with earth for insulation and was kept from freezing by the heat of a large kerosene lantern. With constant care, this chlorinator gave satisfactory results. In 1936, work was started on a new chlorine house and modern equipment installed.

  All of these additions and improvements were made under the supervision of Samuel H. MacKenzie, whose dedicated service for a period of nearly thirty years to the Water Department, the Town of Southington and to his church was never fully appreciated or, if appreciated, never expressed. He was forced by illness to submit his resignation and on January 1, 1939, Samuel W. Bowers, Mr. MacKenzie's nephew, was appointed Superintendent and Engineer.

  At this time, the demand for water was threatening to exceed the safe yield of the reservoirs and it was apparent that an additional source would soon be needed. The department owned land where it was possible to locate an additional storage reservoir, but the cost was estimated to be such that it would be more economical to develop a ground water supply if possible.

  In 1940, several test wells were driven on land owned by the Town on which the Water Department facilities were located. The results indicated that it would be practical to construct a large, gravel-packed well on this site but action by the commissioners was delayed.

  A drought took place in 1941 and on December 8, water in storage was only about 45 million gallons and much of this would not be available. There remained less than thirty days supply. Fortunately, the reservoirs began to slowly fill in a few days and the danger was over temporarily.

  There may be criticism as to why the needed additional supply had not been made sooner. However, the country still had not recovered from the depression. Water rent payments were very slow and during one period, a Department employee made weekly visits to homes and accepted payments of as little as fifty cents. The bond issue floated by the Town to purchase the water works in 1911 became due on July 1, 1941, and the commissioners wanted to pay off a large portion of this in order to reduce the amount of the new bonds.

  Finally, late in 1942, work was started on Well Number 1 located near our present office. This well was placed on line in the summer of 1943 and delivered 500 gallons per minute, nearly three-quarters of a million gallons per day. This well had to be reconstructed a few years ago but is still delivering the same quantity of good water.

  We now entered the years of World War II. With the coming of Pratt 8c Whitney and other war related industries, the Town grew rapidly, and the water use increased accordingly. Addition wells were constructed, number 2 on the Meriden and Water-bury Turnpike, number 3 on Hobart Street, number 4 on Curtiss Street and number 5 westerly of Old Turnpike. At this time, these wells had a combined capacity of about two and one-half million gallons per day.

  From 1941 to 1946, the department office was located in the town-owned building on Main Street, corner of Berlin Avenue. In 1945, it was considered desirable to consolidate, the facilities of the department in a new office, garage and workshop off High Street in 1967, the present office addition was made.

  Upon retirement of Superintendent Bowers in 1972, John L. Bean took over the operation of the works. Well number 6 on Curtiss Street was constructed and plans were prepared for a high service system to serve upper West Queen Street, West Street and Hart Street.

  Mr. Bean retired in 1978 and Daniel L. Christy was appointed Superintendent. It was at this point that, with new testing procedures available, it was possible to detect the presence of harmful chemical contaminants. It was found necessary to shut down well number 4, 5, and 6 because these tests disclosed the presence of harmful chemicals. To replace the loss of these three wells, immediate explorations were made to locate newly sites. As a temporary measure, the use of a well owned by the City of New Britain and located in the easterly part of Southington was obtained. Fortunately, a dependable well field was found and during the next few years wells number 7 and 8 were completed and put into service. Plans were being made to remove the source of contamination of wells number 4 and 6 on Curtiss Street and it is hoped that these wells would be usable after an indeterminate period, probably one or two years.

  The high service system on West Queen Street and West Street with pumping station on West Queen Street and a one million gallon steel standpipe on high point was completed and put into use during 1981. This system will open a large area for development and future growth is certain. During 1981 and 1982, in the search for new well sites, considerable test well work was done, particularly in the west side of the Town where an additional supply would be of great value.

  Superintendent Christy resigned in 1981 and March 11, 1982  Superintendent, Gilbert J. Bligh, an engineering graduate of the University of Connecticut, was appointed to the position.

  As we pause briefly to observe the completion of the first one hundred years, we look forward to the challenge of continually providing a dependable water supply, building upon the foundation so well prepare by those dedicated persons who served before us. 

James E. Cox      President 
Anthony S. Pizzitola      Vice President 
Samuel W. Bowers       Secretary, Treasurer 
Elaine B. Bedard       Commissioner 
Paul H. Hemberger       Commissioner 
Samuel P. Falzarano       Commissioner 

 COMMISSIONERS WHO HAVE SERVED - FROM 1911 TO 1995

James H. Pratt 1911-1923   Kenneth Butler 1966-1970
Edward S. Todd  1911-1933      Milton J. Mongillo  1966-1982
Joseph H. Martin  1911-1926      Edgar F. Curtiss 1968-1980
Dr. William H. Cushing  1926-1943      Philip K. Wooding  1970-1977
Frederick M. Elllis  1933-1936      Albert A. Della Bitta  1977-1979
Homer C. Neal  1933-1937      Joanne Foster  1979-1981
Joseph D. Brown  1936-1937      James E. Cox  1979-1987
Benjamin H. McGar  1937-1950      Samuel W. Bowers  1980-1985
Benjamin H. McGar 1960-1968      Anthony S. Pizzatola  1980-1985
Edward L. Sullivan  1937-1939      Elaine B. Bedard  1981-1985
Paul Woodruff  1939-1940      Samuel P. Falzarano  1982-1983
Harry B. Armstrong  1940-1943      Paul H. Hemberger  1982-1994
Adolph J. Trapp  1943-1952      Edward J. Rich  1983-1990
Cyrus C. Chamberlain  1944-1948      Walter Dillon  1985-1993
Cyrus C. Chamberlain 1954-1958      Thomas Earley   1985-1989
Kenneth M. Cook  1948-1976      John A. Poirier  1989-1992
Valentine J. DePaolo  1950-1956      James E. Palmieri  1987-2001
Howard C. Linke  1952-1954      Norman W. VanCor  1985-1997
Andrew T. Simone  1946-1959      Thomas S. Janik  1990-1999
James F. Kennedy  1958-1982      Paul J. Jiantonio  1992-1997
Louis H. Simone  1959-1960      David F. Hubbs  1993-1997
 Frank DeLuco 1966-1979      James J. Feltz  1995-1999

              COMMISSIONERS WHO HAVE SERVED - FROM 1996 TO PRESENT

Edward S. Pocock, III 1995-2007      Noreen A. Laurinaitis 2003-2007
Walter A. Grover, II 1997-2001   Stephen C. Pestillo 2005-2009
Thomas J. Murphy 1997-2021   Angelina M. Santa Maria 2005-2017
Christina A. Mancini 1999-2003   Eric E. Semmel 2007-2015
Paul J. Palmese Jr.  1999-2001   Michael S. Domian 2009-2019
Joseph A. Sollack 1999-2001   Cheryl S. Lounsbury 2009-2013
Robert M. Berkmoes 2001-2019   Gregory A. Klimaszewski 2011-2017
Bruce T. Sayward 2001-2005   Joseph DelDebbio 2015-2017
Christopher J. Palmieri 2001-2003   Erika Pocock 2015-2019
John C. Dobbins 2003-2009   Rudolph Cabata 2017-2021
Marc A. Dynder 2003-2007   Ralph Warner 2017-2021