Final Report-SL

Pickerel or Payroll: Conflicting Attitudes on Pollution of the Androscoggin River 1943-1972

Seth Laskin

Two boys stood proudly on a bridge, one with a sign, hand-written in bold black letters: “Buy a clothespin for your nose 5¢.” Next to him, another well-dressed boy holds an open box in one hand and exhibits a wooden clothespin in the other. For good measure, each of these smirking merchants clamped a pin over their nose to demonstrate their innovation for the photographer. The image was printed on the front page of a local Maine newspaper, the caption a testament to the success of the boys’ ingenious solution to a nuisance in the “two cities:” “And do they sell? ‘Tha[t]’s th’ bedst buy in the du cidies’, is the common remark of satisfied customers.”[1] With a stiff breeze wafting the river’s dreadful odor of rotten eggs and cabbage between Lewiston and Auburn, residents were forced to make a dire decision, to clench their hats or noses.

Perhaps unknown to the boys on that day in August 1940, their shop on the gusty North Bridge was perched above one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. One of two articles accompanying the photograph explains the source of the “fermented sludge, that scums the surface…and smells like a ‘Queen Mary’ cargo of overdue eggs.”[2] A hundred miles upstream along the Androscoggin River, the Brown Paper Company and two other pulp and paper mills were dumping thousands of tons of untreated pulping chemicals directly into the river. As these industrial “waste liquors” mixed with the river, natural anerobic bacteria converted it into poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas and the accompanying offensive stench.

For thirty years, efforts to restore the Androscoggin and eliminate its odor were meticulously recorded by “Rivermaster” Walter A. Lawrance. Appointed by the Maine Supreme Court in 1947 and armed with the authority to control industrial discharge, Lawrance collected data, relevant press reports on water pollution, and recorded the results of his own attempts to eliminate the odor he saw as the crux of the problem. In his 2012 Environmental History article, “Defining a Nuisance,” Wallace Scot McFarlane uses the “Lawrance Papers” to illustrate Lawrance’s reliance on unscientific observations, like smell tests, on one hand and, on the other, an unjustified trust in technology to cure the ailing river without inconvenience to industry. McFarlane argues Lawrance’s “failure to keep up with the growing environmental consciousness,” actually prevented Lawrance from employing effective pollution control methods. In other words, Lawrance’s strategy to combat pollution lagged behind what the public wanted done. However, the Lawrance Papers reveal a much more nuanced truth. In fact, the public was severely divided on how to proceed, which forced Lawrance to walk a fine line between the conflicting demands of the public. Moreover, large segments of the public followed Lawrance’s lead, not vice versa as McFarlane suggests.     

Two boys peddle clothespins to passerby’s suffering from the Androscoggin’s dreadful odor, a result of severe chemical pollution by paper mills upstream. Lewiston Evening Journal, 1940.

When the boys opened their clothespin shop on North Bridge in 1940, the effects of sulphite waste on waterways was understood and solutions were being developed. But until the federal government seized oversight from states with the Clean Water Act, the Androscoggin River remained virtually lifeless, because residents remained fiercely divided over the appropriate use of the river. This paper will explore and explain the conflicting attitudes that Lawrance was forced to contend with during his tenure as Rivermaster. First, much of the public remained steadfastly opposed to any pollution control measures that they believed would harm industry and risk loss of future economic benefits of polluters. Industry itself fueled these fears through spokesmen and public announcements. The second and largest group remained apathetic about pollution throughout Lawrance’s tenure. This group can be especially elusive in the Lawrance Papers, but their presence is evident through editorials that publicly begged for their attention. Finally, advocates for pollution control measures mounted gallant efforts, but they too failed to unite behind a single goal, instead disagreeing on the appropriate measure for success. Overall, as the public debated and disagreed, chemical waste continued entering the river.

The Androscoggin water basin covers over 3,450 square miles of Maine and New Hampshire and drains into the Atlantic. The many waterways were used as a highway system by Abenaki tribes, while Its many falls made it attractive to industry in the late 19th century.

From Pristine to Polluted

Monumental changes were ushered into the Androscoggin Valley by William Wentworth Brown, who after selling his Portland shipbuilding business, transformed the village of Berlin into a boomtown. Throughout the Civil War Berlin’s economic growth remained stable but stagnant, providing residence for 400, including only 30-40 mill workers.[3] W.W. Brown and his business partners formed the Berlin Mills Company, which grew so rapidly it was incorporated in 1888 to provide more efficient management of the large operation. Trusting his own business savvy, Brown began constructing paper mills along the Androscoggin near Berlin, which would use the new and promising sulphite process. As Brown’s mills grew, immigrants seeking economic opportunity swelled Berlin’s population to a staggering 9,000 by the dawn of the 20th century.

But the darker consequences of the sulphite pulping process promised to divide how residents saw the Androscoggin’s resources. Paper Mills like Brown, the largest of its kind in the Androscoggin Valley, produced thousands of tons of toxic “waste liquor” as a by-product to their pulping process. True to form, as Joel Tarr lays out in Search for the Ultimate Sink, industry usually sought the cheapest effective means of waste disposal.[4] For Brown, the Androscoggin’s ability to carry waste to the Atlantic was a solution without flaw.

But for all the benefits to Brown, dumping sulphite waste had catastrophic consequences for the Androscoggin Valley, which would force residents to determine the appropriate use of the river. When W.W. Brown opened his paper mills, the sulphite pulping process was replacing the less efficient use of cloth rags. Using wood instead of cotton to produce paper permitted capitalization of the vast timber reserves of the north country, and essentially reduced the process to two steps. After cutting lumber in the north country and letting the river’s current deliver them to the factory, the logs were cut and stripped, chipped into 2-inch pieces, and dissolved in a lye-sodium hydroxide solution. Dissolving the wood effectively separated organic lignin and the fibers, which would be processed into paper. The so-called black liquor containing the unwanted organic material and acid solution was dumped into the river. The fibers, wood pulp in this stage, was then boiled in caustic soda and lime to eliminate additional unwanted organic material. Once complete, the resulting soapy-looking solution was also dumped. This process continued through additional washes and bleaching, dependent on quality and grade of paper desired, with each step producing more chemicals, all of which were disposed of in the Androscoggin.[5]

Logs work their way down the Androscoggin toward the Brown Paper Company

Public Division

As pollution levels worsened through the first half of the 20th century, the effects could not be ignored by valley residents. The waste dumped by Brown caused oxygen-depleting bacteria to build in the river. As waste levels increased, dissolved oxygen levels decreased to below the minimum required by most aquatic organisms. Moreover, patches of foam, indicating chemical pollution floated freely from Berlin, past Lewiston and Auburn, and then to the ocean.[6] But, even those uninterested in fishing in the Androscoggin would have found compelling reasons to purchase clothespins for their noses.

Though the smell was unavoidable for residents throughout the Androscoggin Valley, they disagreed on the appropriate response, which enabled industry to continue polluting largely unabated. Even as late as 1973, one year after federal water pollution legislation was passed, Charles Steinhacker documented the pollution for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica project. His photograph of the Brown Company’s mill centers a torrent of liquid rushing, in plain view, from the mill into the Androscoggin below it.[7] The company did not employee any measure to conceal their pollution from public view.

Brown Paper Company discharge into the Androscoggin. Charles Steinhacker, June 1973.

However, industry did not remain outside of the public debate over pollution. Instead, scare tactics were employed by the valley’s industries to effectively spread fear about economic consequences of pollution control measures. Throughout Lawrance’s tenure, he recorded evidence of industry’s effort to shape the public’s attitude. The companies argued that these measures would be costly and thus, put jobs at risk. A marathon legislative session in Maine in Spring 1955 demonstrates industry’s message to valley residents. Arguing against legislation which would have declared pollution a public nuisance, enabling stricter action to reign-in industry, a paper industry spokesman explained to the public, the bill should be named “An Act Providing Clean Pocketbooks in Maine.”[8] The argument that pollution control would cost jobs would be echoed for decades. One lobbyist and former State Senate President argued stricter pollution control measures would equate to a “keep out” sign on the state for new industries.  But, not to worry, “’industry is doing something about pollution,’ he said.”[9] Behind the scenes, industry merely researched more profitable ways to dispose of waste. This public pressure campaign is predictable, perhaps, but evidence suggests it was received with at least some success.

Local coverage of the session suggests some outspoken public representatives’ warm reception to industry’s message. Without viewing census data and additional archival material, it is impossible to say how many followers they had, but safe to say publication of their ideas suggests they had some. Summarizing industry’s argument against the bill, Faunce Pendexter of the Lewiston Evening Journal, noted “This ‘scare’ theory has worked out pretty well for industry.”[10] Pendexter’s notion was confirmed by Lee Briggs, who explained “This ‘scare’ theory has worked pretty well for industry. No pollution law with real bite has been enacted.”[11] Indeed, solutions were noted as early as 1909, but in 1955, no legislation compelled industry to employ abatement procedures.[12]

At least one popular fear was less of consequences on current industry, but long-term impacts. This group feared prohibitive costs of pollution control measures would drive prospective industry to cheaper less regulated states. The Lawrance Papers do not reveal this message directly from the public, but many representatives of business organizations published the warning in editorials. One illustrative example will suffice to make the point. In the winter of 1956, a debate over bringing a tannery into the valley played out in the local press. A development spokesman argued pollution control efforts were hurting his effort to bring a new tannery to the state. Responses to the spokesmen argued industries that bring pollution are not needed.[13]

But some believed the opposite, that polluted water, not pollution control measures, would keep industry away. In fact, some pressed for pollution control measures on behalf of industry. The thinking was that many industries required clean water and would not move into a town reliant on a polluted river. At a meeting in Portland on with Army Engineers, on December 14, 1960, about fifty people debated the topic. One speaker conceded the river should not be restored to pristine condition, which would be too costly, but, “it is imperative for our future growth that the Androscoggin River be useful for business, industry, and [recreation].”[14] Adding to the debate, these residents feared the future economic health of the state relied on clean water. But divisions ran even deeper than over who should use the river.

Even moderate voices focused their attention on the benefits industry provided. In fact, even in hindsight, two interviewees revealed a general willingness to accept pollution as a side-effect to stable employment. Rick Fauchner grew up in Berlin because his father, like many of his peers’, got a job at the mill after serving in the Second World War. Fauchner recalled (listen to oral interview above) a good childhood and booming economy, but consistently returned his thoughts to the pollution, explaining as a child “seeing white thick material…big thick patches…six to eight inches thick floating.” Speaking as if common knowledge, Fauchner explained the river was okay above the mill, but “once you got to Berlin, forget it, it was over.” Indeed, the river was really “unfishable and unusable from Berlin, down.” Nevertheless, after a brief stint in college, Fauchner returned home and landed a job at the mill. At the time, he recalled, we “just didn’t think about it because there was a lot of employment…women were working, men were working; there was a lot of money.”[19] Fauchner’s memory reveals a common willingness to ignore or adapt to the pollution, rather than risk jobs the public was grateful to have.

Patches of floating foam indicate severe pollution. This image was taken far downstream of Brown, near Lewiston and Auburn. Charles Steinhacker, Documerica.

Another resident, Bonnie, shared similar feelings. After her father moved to Berlin to work at a federal fish hatchery (to restore depleted fish stocks). Acknowledging her fortunate residence “upwind” from the mill, Bonnie recalled “the mill stank as soon as you got into town…even the next town smelled, [but] people weren’t too concerned back then.” Again, Bonnie reiterated, “everyone had good jobs back then…there was prosperity and very few poor people.”[20] Instead of confronting the mill, the hand that fed the town, residents “acclimated, as unbelievable as that sounds.” Bonnie and Fauchner agree, residents were willing to accept the smell of the river as long as the company payroll was maintained.

To be sure, plant closures would have been detrimental to the valley’s economy, but there was debate over just how far industry should be pushed to reduce pollution. One illustrative example was debated publicly in local papers between May and September 1956. Fearing the costs imposed on local starch producers, farmers looking for a sure market for unsold potatoes supported industry requests for extensions on reducing pollution. In years when market prices were uncooperative, mills offered farmers a lifeline. But in September, sportsmen publicly opposed the extension, arguing the factories have had enough time already, but have shown “no substantial progress.”[21] The following week, the state Water Improvement Board approved the extension, “to prevent economic distress to the potato growers.”[22]

Throughout the era, opposition groups prevented passage of any potentially effective but costly legislation. As demonstrated above, industry drove the message with at least some success. Thus, local legislators could bow to industry pressure if not outright support their own constituents’ wishes. In either case, the result was the same: No effective legislation. There were efforts, as McFarlane demonstrates, to pressure the major polluters along the Androscoggin. But many of these efforts failed. In response to one lawsuit, three paper mills formed the Androscoggin River Technical Committee to study the problem and possible solutions, but, “their allegiance lay with the mills and therefore with the techniques least intrusive to business.”[23] The group’s stated goal was merely to rid valley residents of the offensive stench, not to address pollution explicitly. And so it went throughout Lawrance’s tenure as Rivermaster. Industry drove enough of the public’s attention away from the problem, enabling him to employ futile “nuisance abatement” procedures that did nothing to eliminate life-destroying pollution from the Androscoggin.

Even residents who valued clean water believed anti-pollution legislation was simply unnecessary because industry would self-regulate. This was a message amplified by industry executives, and like the fear campaign, their efforts to build public trust was effective. Wallace Parsons, an industry executive, bragged that the pulp and paper industry spent a whopping one million dollars over the past dozen years researching more economical methods of waste disposal.[24] Underwhelming efforts like this, were met with public support. In fact, praising the Brown Company for its investment in a more profitable pulping system, an article in the Lewiston Daily Sun, declared it deserved a “dozen orchids” for its effort against pollution.[25] Though it helped, this investment improved profits, but did little for pollution. The new technology allowed the company to burn sulphite waste to produce power for the plant. Nonetheless, efforts like these were gratefully received by those pleased by industry “spending large sums of money.”[26]  Those who held this view often pointed toward other sources of concern.

Waste produced by cities and towns, a small fraction of the problem, provided a scapegoat and cause for division. On one hand, folks who believed industry was doing enough on its own, pointed fingers at the sewage cities and towns dumped into the Androscoggin. One such writer proclaimed in the Lewiston Daily Sun, “practically nothing has been done by cities and towns of the valley,” to treat sewage waste being dumped into the river.[27] An editorial from 1961, titled “Well Done, Industry,” not only praises industry, but demands municipalities deal with the remaining pollution: “Industry has done its job on the Androscoggin. The remaining challenge faces the river valley’s key cities and towns.”[28] If industry should be burdened with clean-up, so too should municipalities.

On the other hand, there were those who may have supported pollution control measures generally, but feared they would put undue financial strain on municipalities. One editorial argued, any pollution control measures, “must also consider capacity of industries and municipalities to meet the problem financially.”[29] Years later, an editorial expressed the same sentiment when warning, “if residents of the Androscoggin valley are insisting that pollution abatement be practiced by industry, they also must recognize…communities will be required to install their own sewage treatment plants.”[30] Residents knew these improvements would be expensive. Lawrance embraced this position and reflected it years later in his assessment of potential federal intervention in pollution control. He warned a meeting of Army Engineers, standards the proposed to enact would require construction of municipal treatment plants throughout the Androscoggin Valley.[31]

Perhaps the most significant group were those whose voices are not found in the public record. The attitudes of the uninterested public are hidden behind the frustration of advocates. Time and time again we see wake-up calls for public action and demands for attention. For example, in December 1960, advocates of pollution control legislation held a meeting. There, Mrs. Arthur Whittemore argued advocates make a point to use the word “stink,” as “a rallying cry to get more help from the public in the battle against pollution.”[32] Clearly, large sects of the public were not engaged, despite decades of relentless “180 proof brand of smell.”[33] Senator Robert Kerr summarized the problem and was quoted by a frustrated resident: “Although too many people seem unworried, their drinking water is rapidly being poisoned.”[34] But evidence shows public apathy was consistent before the 1960s. A 1956 editorial fumes over public outrage at a proposal to build a navy sewage plant. Noting the abject hypocrisy of the opposition, the writer sees some reason for optimism: “In justice to the protestants, that it is encouraging to see much widespread interest in the subject of pollution after many decades of not giving a whoop.”[35] Perhaps earlier residents were content with clothespins. Indeed, to many, water pollution was merely an afterthought.

Some residents seem to have expressed more fear of flooding than pollution. On December 14, 1960 residents, advocates, and local officials met with government officials to discuss not river fumes that discolored houses and tarnished silverware, but flood prevention.[36] Apparently, some in attendance were appalled by a meeting on such a frivolous subject, while pollution remained unaddressed. Mrs. MacPherson of Auburn, said on behalf of the League of Women Voters: “the League feels obliged to point out that while flood control should be considered in proposed multipurpose projects, it is pollution which presents the most serious problem in the river basin.”[37] In response, the author of a December 15th editorial explained the flaw in McPherson’s thinking: “The damage done by flood waters has been enormous.”[38] Indeed, residents of the Androscoggin endured 11 floods in the preceding 68 years. The author apparently thought this was an unacceptable risk, which “should be sufficient reason for Androscoggin valley communities to be interested in flood control.”[39] A pressing matter indeed.

Still others had resources, which enabled them to avoid the burden of river pollution. When the smell was worst in summer, families with cars could escape to the beach for fresh sea breezes. Those without their own cars piled into busses to Sabattus Beach, “since people cannot get there otherwise.”[40] With the exception of the war years when fuel was in short supply, escaping to the beach permitted some to avoid the problem altogether during summer peaks.

Not everyone was apathetic, but enough were to ignore the futile sodium nitrate program Lawrance initiated as a major component of his solution. He embraced the public’s apathy by focusing on ridding the valley of the offensive odor, thus hiding evidence of the continuing pollution. Through his tenure, Lawrance remained laser-focused on nuisance abatement, not on cleaning the river. Reflecting the apathetic public’s attitude, Lawrance mocked the idea of a true clean-up effort: “If it’s worth spending millions of dollars now just so there will be a few more fish in the river, go ahead. Are we going to drink it?” There is no chance the public was willing to make the economic sacrifice Lawrance thought necessary to restore the Androscoggin to habitable condition. Further, Lawrance noted the delayed impact of pollution control measures, which would “mean spending millions of dollars for something that will probably not be used for another 50 or 60 years.”[41] Again, Lawrance was quite aware of the public’s unwillingness to risk sacrificing payroll for a few more fish.

There may be another factor to consider. Though it is impossible to quantify precisely the effect on Androscoggin Valley residents, it is worth noting the popular attitudes on science, which could have provided a reason to remain unconcerned about pollution. Through the mid-century decades science and technology promised a solution to the world’s woes without compromise. Rapid technological development in all aspects of life led people to place blind trust in science and technology’s ability to solve social problems without inconvenience.[42] Dishwashers, vacuums, and automobiles shrank distance and saved time; surely a device soon to be discovered would turn sulphite waste into profitable material.[43] A 1960s Industrial Wastes article, explained that as public attitude shifted toward clean water, large expenditures would need to be spent on pollution control. Nothing in the entire addition suggests reducing pollution through reduced production. The focus was entirely on addressing pollution at the levels industry produced.[44] An editorial in the Lewiston Daily Sun expressed faith in technological fixes when a New York company effectively burned sulfite liquor promising “benefits to the paper mills and State…will be enormous.” The writer concludes to “hail their enterprise as the kind of research we need so badly in Maine.”[45]

Trust in science to solve pollution was pervasive enough to convince even fierce advocates of pollution control that no compromise was needed. The president of Citizens for Conservation and Pollution Control, Dr. Norman Tufts spoke at a tense hearing in 1955, “We have no fear or intention of driving industry from Maine.” Even the bill’s sponsor bought into the ability to “have your cake and eat it too,” as has been shown in other states.[46]

Lawrance himself embraced this trust in his own handling of the Androscoggin. He relied on an instinct first noted in 1953 at a meeting of the National Council, for Stream Improvement. The Lewiston Evening Journal concisely summarized his message in its headline: “Long and Costly Research Only Answer to Pollution.”[47] His reliance on science can be best seen in three efforts. First, Lawrance and the industries he oversaw, employed lagoons to store waste until it would be released into higher waters. This program was deemed ineffective due to high costs and occasional leaks. Second, Lawrance installed aerators meant to improve dissolved oxygen levels in the water. Though they helped, the river remained severely polluted. Finally, and most spectacularly, Lawrance engaged in a years-long effort to eliminate the smell (but not pollution) by dumping thousands of tons of sodium nitrate into the water from bridges, boats, and in one case a helicopter. Though the smell was reduced, the dumping continued and dissolved oxygen levels remained low. Lawrance simply was not willing to order waste entering the river be reduced. Instead, he walked a fine line between concerns over the smell nuisance the public demand be eliminated, and their fear that overly invasive measures would offend industry and cost residents their jobs.

Even pollution-control advocates disagreed on what standard should be set as a goal. This group of advocates agreed generally that pollution needed to be abated but, did not agree on the purpose of clean water. One writer had an excellent summary of the various justifications for forcing “the abatement of water pollution, wherever found.”[48] The author, Gerald Reed, praised the goals set by one advocacy group and stressed, “Alert citizens realize the economic and social progress of Maine depends on…pollution control.”[49] Moreover, he explained, clean waters are essential for, “a healthy citizenry, industrial expansion, added business, recreational advantages and more game and fish.”[50]

Concerns for economic costs of polluted rivers were evident, in contrast to those more concerned about clean-up costs. Not only would residents closest to the river save on the cost of repainting their homes blackened by the rivers fumes every few summers, the values of their property would increase. Such public sentiment was echoed by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dolloff, who reminded constituents, “Orderly pollution control can increase property values.”[51] He continued summarizing economic benefits to pollution control, including attracting new industries that were searching for more “good water,” “making Maine more attractive to our out-of-state visitors,” and assured them the high costs “are dollars that will be returned to the economy of Maine.”[52] Certainly he know what potential voters were concerned about.

Still others reasoned the true purpose of pollution control was to restore once prime fisheries. In fact, the Androscoggin Fish and Game Association was one of the earliest pollution control advocacy group in the valley. In 1946, the group began meeting to discuss the odor of the river. Several papers covered the meeting and calls for legislation began spreading as a result. But as they would see, this would be merely on setback in a long history of slow progress. One afflicted fisherman complained that his “dandy trout” begin to smell so badly when cooked, “the smell will drive anyone right out of the house.”[53] But restoring game fish to the river would require sacrifices on behalf of industry.

At least for advocates of pollution control measures, one thing was certain: the smell needed to be dealt with. Those who wanted to fish, recreate, increase their home values, and maintain good union mill jobs refused to tolerate the gaseous fumes. It is clear, as McFarlane aptly argued in “Defining and Nuisance,” odor control led Lawrance on a three decade goose chase for false solutions. Even on days when thousands of tons of sodium nitrate hid the odor, the water still contained such low dissolved oxygen, not even pickerel, a non-edible fish capable of surviving in waters with oxygen levels as low as 2 ppm, could survive in the Androscoggin on the eve of the Clean Water Act.

Conclusion: Clean-up

An editorial at the start summer 1962 hinted at a new era of pollution control in the Androscoggin Valley. The writer identified the flaw in Lawrance’s balancing act between the various public attitudes and demanded, “We must go beyond the operation of perfuming a river.”[54] Though it would take one final decade of struggle, the Clean Water Act (1972) would finally replace the clothespin standard introduced by the boys on North Bridge in 1940. The Clean Water Act relies on a classification system to establish water-purity goals, which effectively removed control over pollution from states and their actors like Walter Lawrance.

The long delay from a 1909 United States Geological Survey that identified the problem of sulphite waste and possible solutions, to enforcement of effective pollution standards can be attributed to a divided public. It was not just that Lawrance’s efforts lagged behind the public‘s will, as McFarlane suggests. Rather, Lawrance was forced to balance conflicting demands from the public. On one hand, pollution control advocates disagreed over their ultimate goal, but agreed the smell should be eliminated. On the other hand, a significant portion of the public was not willing to risk the economic impact of pollution control legislation. Even within these groups, there were disagreements on the appropriate balance between industry’s desire to use the river as a sewer and the value of clean water. The sole evidence of public unity was behind the need to rid the river of smell, notably not pollution itself. As a result, and following their lead, Lawrance proceeded on a middle ground that addressed the smell but allowed industry to continue polluting, admitting as much explicitly in a 1950 report on his progress as Rivermaster: “the policy adopted and adhered to is to provide the maximum economic use of the Androscoggin river water without producing and odor.”[55] The same report even noted “the favorable public comment,” received. It is evident Lawrance sought to meet public demands, nothing more.

Residents of the Androscoggin Valley saw the choice they were faced with as one between their economic comfort and physical comfort. At present we face a similar conundrum. Recent attacks by the Trump Administration on the Clean Water Act reveal that the public is again falling into an apathetic stupor as industry dictates proper use of America’s waterways. If the public fails to agree on realistic goals and demand strong regulations to bound industrial uses of waterways, we should stock up on clothespins.

[1] “Pin for your nose, sir?,” Lewiston Evening Journal, August 7, 1940, Accessed December 12, 2020,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Page Helm Jones, Evolution of a Valley, (Canaan, NH: Phoenix Publishing, 1975), 118.

[4] Joel Tarr, Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Pollution in Historical Perspective, (Akron: University of Akron Press, 1996).

[5] John T. Cumbler, Reasonable Use: The People, the Environment, and the state, New England, 1790-1930, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 54.

[6] Rick Fauchner revealed that these foam patches were plainly visible from the many bridges spanning the Androscoggin and recalled standing on a bridge watching patches float downstream.

[7] Charles Steinhacker, Brown Paper Company Showing Outfall into the Androscoggin River, June 1973,

[8] “Pollution Bills Result in Long, Stormy Session,” Lewiston Daily Sun, April 14, 1955. Note: All press clips are cited from the original document, but can also be found: Walter A. Lawrance Androscoggin River Studies Annual Reports,  Series I: Androscoggin River 1940-1983, Subseries I: Androscoggin River Studies, Box 1, Walter A. Lawrance Papers, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine.

[9] “Nearly 12 Hours of Oratory on Maine Pollution,” Lewiston Daily Sun, April 15, 1955.

[10] Faunce Pendexter, “Negative Approach to Pollution by Industrial Representatives,” Lewiston Evening Journal, April 15, 1955.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Earle Bernard Phelps, “The Pollution of Stream by Sulphite Pulp Waste: A Study of Possible Remedies,” (Washignton: Government Printing Office, 1909),

[13] Lewiston Evening Journal, December 10-January 9.

[14] “Jacques Slams ‘Vested Interests That Use Androscoggin as Sewer,” Lewiston Evening Journal, December 14, 1960.

[15] “Pickeral and Payrolls,” Lewiston Evening Journal, May 8, 1956.

[16] “Some Fear Closing of Plants if They Can’t Continue Dumping,” in Lewiston Daily Sun, May 16, 1956.

[17] “New Action on Androscoggin?” in Lewiston Daily Sun, September 13, 1962.

[18] “The Wet War,” in Portland Evening Express, February 6, 1963.

[19] Rick Faucher (Berlin resident), in discussion with the author, November 2020.

[20] Bonnie (Berlin resident), in discussion with the author, November 2020.

[21] “Starch Makers Ask Delay in Deadline,” in The Lewiston Daily Sun, September 8, 1956.

[22] “Starch Firms Warned on Pollution,” in The Lewiston Daily Sun, September 15, 1956.

[23] Wallace Scot McFarlane, “Defining a Nuisance: Pollution, Science, and Environmental Politics on Maine’s Androscoggin River,” Environmental History, 17 no. 2 (2012):

[24] “Water Pollution Reduced-Parsons,” Lewiston Daily Sun, July 2, 1956.

[25] “A Blow Against Pollution,” Lewiston Daily Sun, May 3, 1956.

[26] “New Action on Androscoggin?” Lewiston Daily Sun, September 13, 1962.

[27] “New Action on Androscoggin?” Lewiston Daily Sun, September 13, 1962.

[28] “Well Done, Industry,” Lewiston Evening Journal, June 7, 1961. Note: A 1962 report found 94% of Androscoggin’s pollution was industrial, 6% municipal.

[29] “Action on Pollution,” Lewiston Evening Journal, November 12, 1954.

[30] “Flood Control and Pollution,” Lewiston Evening Journal, December 15, 1960.

[31] “Androscoggin River Status Scheduled for Hearing,” Lewiston Evening Journal, January 31, 1963.

[32] “Plain Talk Urged by Pollution Foes,” Lewiston Daily Sun, December 14, 1960.

[33] “Another Chapter of the Same Story,” Lewiston Sun Journal, July 19, 1943, quoted in Walter A. Lawrance Androscoggin River Studies Annual Report, October, 1943, Series I: Androscoggin River 1940-1983, Subseries I: Androscoggin River Studies, Box 1, Folder 1, Walter A. Lawrance Papers, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine.

[34] Hugh A. Mulligan, “America May Drown in its Dirty Water,” Boston Sunday Herald, October 21, 1962.

[35] “Municipal Pollution,” Lewiston Daily Sun, April 25, 1956.

[36] “Another Chapter of the Same Story,” Lewiston Sun Journal, July 19, 1943, quoted in Walter A. Lawrance Androscoggin River Studies Annual Report, October, 1943, Series I: Androscoggin River 1940-1983, Subseries I: Androscoggin River Studies, Box 1, Folder 1, Walter A. Lawrance Papers, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine.

[37] “Flood Control and Pollution,” Lewiston Evening Journal, December 15, 1960.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “River Smell Arrives with 88 Degree Temp,” Lewiston Sun, June 25, 1943.

[41] “Androscoggin River Status Scheduled for Hearing,” Lewiston Evening Journal, January 31, 1963.

[42] For more on the impact of science on public attitude see John T. Cumbler, Reasonable Use: The People, the Environment, and the state, New England, 1790-1930, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 86.

[43] In fact, as early as 1947 several studies and effective procedures were discovered to use sulphite waste as fertilizer, thought it is unclear if it ever found markets enough to realize profits. See: “Industrial Alcohol Being Produced from Paper Mill,” Lewiston Daily Sun, June 19, 1947.

[44] “The Industrial Wastes Problem: Utilization, Treatment and Disposal of Gases, Liquids and Solids,” in Industrial Wastes. Note: There is no date on this publication, but it appears to be from the mid 1960s. Located Bates College Edmund Muskie Collection, Walter Lawrance Papers, MC099, Box 16, Folder 8.

[45] “Two Bit of Good News,” Editorial in Lewiston Daily Sun, October 22, 1955.

[46] “Pollution Bills Result in Long Stormy Session,” The Lewiston Daily Sun, April 14, 1955.

[47] “Long and Costly Research Only Answer to Pollution Dr. Lawrance Tells Group,” Lewiston Evening Journal, December 11, 1953.

[48] “The Androscoggin River Hearings,” Lewiston Daily Sun, December 14, 1960.

[49] Gerald J. Reed, “Citizens Group Seeks Clean-Up of Maine Waters,” Lewiston Daily Sun, December 8, 1952.

[50] Ibid.

[51] “Cleanup Of Rivers Urged by Dolloff,” Lewiston Daily Sun, September 25, 1962.

[52] “Cleanup Of Rivers Urged by Dolloff,” Lewiston Daily Sun, September 25, 1962.

[53] Lewiston Daily Sun, August 28,1947.

[54] May 22, 1963 [maybe]

[55] Walter Lawrance, Sulphite Pulp Production, 1950,

Keywords: Pollution, Water, Factories, Business, Class