Mac Richardson, superintendent at Lewiston-Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority, packs up his office Friday on his last day as supervisor of the wastewater treatment plant in Lewiston. He is retiring after 32 years. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

 

LEWISTON — Fresh powder in the woods off the ski slopes is like a magnet for Clayton “Mac” Richardson. At age 63, he barrels down the mountain trailblazing his own path among the trees and ungroomed snow with the passion of a teenager, co-worker Travis Peaslee said.

Richardson’s adventurous and fun spirit was on display every day for 32 years at the Lewiston-Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority. Superintendent for the past 30 years, he retired Friday from the supervising the wastewater treatment plant on Lincoln Street.

“His fun spirit, vast technical knowledge and true concern for everybody and everything will surely be missed by members of the greater water environment community,” Peaslee said.

Under his leadership, the Water Pollution Control Authority has received numerous honors, including excellence awards from the state of Maine, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the American Council of Engineering Companies.

Richardson began his career as the assistant superintendent in 1988. The wastewater treatment plant was built in 1974 and was beginning to show signs of wear when he came on board.

“It had been 14 to 15 years and, typical with new facilities, there wasn’t a lot of maintenance put into the facility,” Richardson said. “It was just in need of some upgrading and updating.

The systems that removes solids that get flushed down the toilet, such as condoms, tampons and even tin cans, was in need of a major overhaul. The facility had two such streams —  the Lewiston channel and the Auburn channel.

“One of them was totally out of commission and the other one was limping along and just about dead,” Richardson said. “Things like that had happened that needed to be upgraded and replaced.”

In his 32 years, Richardson says virtually every piece of equipment at the plant has been replaced. Some parts wore out, while others became obsolete with the many advances in technology.

One area where technology has helped is how oxygen is added to the wastewater. Instead of using a mechanical aerator, the treatment plant uses blowers that add tiny bubbles into the bottom of the tank, which Richardson said is more efficient.

The result is water clean enough to fish and swim in.

“What we’re discharging into the river is cleaner than what is going by in the river,” Richardson said.

Whatever pollution there is in the Androscoggin River is coming from nonpoint sources, such as farm fields, streets and even fertilized lawns, Richardson said.

“Trout can live perfectly well in our effluent,” he said.

That success in returning clean water from the waste entering the plant is due to the hard work of his employees. His crew of 16 take its cue from their boss.

“He’s always happy no matter what is happening,” Peaslee said. “That’s his attitude, very free-spirit. Not much phases him.

One area of the job that has phased him of late is the added emphasis of removing substances known as PFAS, which are man-made chemicals found in almost everything, including dental floss, microwave popcorn bags, deli wrappers, Gore-Tex and stain-resistant carpeting.

“The hardest thing about it is it’s still a developing science,” Richardson said. “We’re measuring it down to the parts per trillion now. We’re measuring it down to such low concentration and these things are in all kinds of consumer products.

“At the treatment plant we don’t make these chemicals,” he said. “We don’t add them. It just reflects what is out there in society. It keeps us from recycling these materials back into the soil, which for 30 years has been best practices,” he added.

The Windham resident expects to stay busy during retirement. He will keep active in wastewater treatment by helping to run a small plant that services the Windham School Department.

“I hope to do some working with high school students and maybe even college and technical students to teach about the environment and wastewater treatment and why it is so important,” he added.

Peaslee, who will take over as the acting superintendent, expects his former boss to be active in all outdoor pursuits, especially skiing, kayaking and golf. His fun-loving spirit comes out on the golf course, Peaslee said, when the 6-foot-2-inch golfer pulls out of his bag and 18-inch putter on the greens.

Although he is leaving a job he clearly loves, Richardson said water pollution treatment in the Twin Cities will continue to receive first-class service.

“I feel very fortunate and very grateful to serve the Lewiston and Auburn communities,” Richardson said. “They’ve been great to me. The Water Pollution Control Authority is in great hands going forward because the people who work there care about what they do, and they’re really good people.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.