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Wekepeke In the Press and on the Web

  • 2008-02-21 The Landmark – Opinion – Wekepeke water has a deep history
  • 2003 Nashua River Watershed – Five Year Action Plan (includes descriptions)

Wekepeke water has a deep history

By Russell R. Philpot The Committee for Informed Citizens SterlingPosted Feb 21, 2008 at 12:01 AM   

Lately there has been much talk about the Wekepeke property, spring water, Nestlé Corporation, and the Town of Clinton. Ideas, rumors, and suppositions have been shooting every which way like mosquitoes on a hot summer night, and well beyond Sterling’s borders. Perhaps it’s time to lay out a few facts.

In the north end of our town, are two large pieces of property purchased by the Town of Clinton in the late 1800s, one along Heywood Road with numerous small ponds and streams and the other tucked behind Upper North Row Road holding the Heywood Reservoir, which extends into the city of Leominster. The total land area is just under 600 acres. Part of this land is in Leominster. The parcel on Heywood Road is commonly known as the “Wekepeke” and the other parcel is significantly less well known. Lancaster currently draws water from the Wekepeke aquifer.

In 1876 the state legislature enacted a law, Chapter 98 entitled “An Act to Supply the Town of Clinton With Pure Water.” By its terms Clinton was authorized to “take and hold the waters of Sandy Pond … and of any other natural pond, or ponds, brook, or brooks … to supply itself and its inhabitants with pure water to extinguish fires, generate steam, and for domestic and other uses, and … establish public fountains and hydrants and to regulate their use.”

Six years later, on February 9, 1882, the state enacted into law Chapter 14,

An Act In Addition to the Acts to Supply the Town of Clinton with Pure Water,” which authorized Clinton to take the waters of Wekepeke Brook, in the town of Sterling or any reservoir theron.” This land is entirely within Sterling with no connection to Clinton. Unlike Sandy Pond, the Wekepeke is located entirely within Sterling. Clinton was likewise authorized to withdraw water from the Wekepeke Brook for the same purposes as provided for in Chapter 98 of the 1876 Act.

In the early 1900s Clinton started to take its public water from the Wachusett Reservoir, slowly and surely weaning itself from the Wekepeke water supply in Sterling. In 1964 Clinton stopped taking any water from the Wekepeke and shortly thereafter the property was no longer recognized by the state as a “commissioned” water supply.

In the spring of 2007, Nestlé Corp. conducted water quality tests and determined the water in the ground of the Wekepeke property on Heywood Road was very high and desirable for their commercial use. Last fall they conducted water volume tests, which indicated the source was viable to supply 200,000 to 240,000 gallons per day of spring water. Nestlé has yet to indicate the amount of water they would actually take each day. However Clinton has now decided that it wants to sell this water to the highest bidder as indicated by their Board of Selectmen’s decision to advertise for Requests for Proposal on the State Register. The interesting issues with all of this are that the Acts do not authorize withdrawal of any water other than surface water as opposed to underground spring water being targeted by Nestlé, nor the supply of water to anyone other than “Clinton itself and its inhabitants.”

Recent quotes from Clinton officials make clear their ideas and intentions for their property in our town. Perhaps the most notable belongs to Mr. Robert Pasquale (Board of Selectmen chair), who stated: “The Wekepeke Reservoir is Clinton’s rainy day slush fund account. It’s our security blanket. We have always talked about using the resources we have in the event of hard times. Well, we’re facing hard times and the resource we have is water.” [The Clinton Item, Jan. 22, 2008].

In 2004 Clinton and the state agreed to the principals of a deal by which Clinton would sign a conservation restriction on all the Wekepeke lands in Sterling in exchange for the state buying 17 acres of land in Clinton on Mossy Pond and giving it to Clinton. A Self Help Grant of $350,000 has become tied to this conservation restriction, as outstanding issues with the state must be resolved before money can be disbursed. As of this writing, the land and the grant are ready to be conveyed to Clinton, but Clinton has not signed the conservation restriction. One can only guess why this is so.

There are many answers that still need to be provided to the people of Sterling by its board of selectmen, and equally as many assumptions we should avoid making. In due time, we hope to be able to provide more information and eliminate or confirm as many assumptions as possible, so that people will be better informed about this entire situation.

We thank you for your time in reading this and hope you will continue to pay attention to this very important situation. Please contact the Committee for Informed Citizens at russrds@comcast. net, or Donna.Joss@worceste.educ, or call 978-422-8415 with any questions for additional facts.

Nashua River Watershed Five-Year Action Plan

The amount of permanently protected undeveloped open space and undeveloped woodland in the Wekepeke subbasin has meant that the water quality in the subbasin remains high. This subbasin features a network of unnamed streams and swamps. Wekepeke Brook in Sterling is one of the best coldwater streams in Eastern Massachusetts. It has good tree cover for shading to maintain cold water temperature, has high fertility and moderate acidity and, consequently, self-supporting populations of brook and brown trout. The headwaters of Wekepeke Brook drain to five reservoirs: Heywood Reservoir, Fitch Basin, Spring Basin, and Upper and Lower Lynde Basins (which are fed by Lynde Brook). At times in the past, Lynde Basin has been noted to be eutrophic.