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Groton Water Department worker retires after disstilling machine found at town building


By Evan Lips


GROTON — At some point this year, according to Town Manager Mark Haddad, one town Water Department employee decided the drinking water bubbling up from Baddacook Well wasn’t strong enough for his tastes.

The employee, who Haddad refused to identify, reportedly had a thirst for something with a little more kick — namely, moonshine — and was making it on town property.

A source close to the investigation says the employee is Water Department Senior Technician Stephen Collette.

Collette, who lives in Groton at 43 Windmill Hill Road, could not be reached for comment. A knock on the door of his home yesterday went unanswered, as did a telephone call last night to his home.

His wife, Town Planner Michelle Collette, referred all questions to Haddad’s office after The Sun asked her at her office about her husband’s alleged hobby of brewing homemade liquor on town property.

The moonshine trade earned its name because early bootleggers would wait until sundown before trekking out to tend to their stills, typically hidden deep in the woods and near cool mountain creeks, which would serve as a cooler for the still’s copper tubing.

But Haddad pointed out that this alleged batch of white lightning was probably not distilled by the light of the moon, nor was the setup cooled by a babbling brook.

Instead, Haddad said the “distilling apparatus” discovered earlier this month was found inside the dank confines of the Baddacook Water Treatment Plant.

Haddad added that the accused employee was placed on paid administrative leave and later decided to resign and retire.

Haddad said he “won’t comment on personnel matters,” but added that the apparatus was confiscated by police.

A spokesman for Police Chief Donald Palma said the department will neither “confirm nor deny anything that is an ongoing investigation,” including the employee’s name or whether the employee was distilling moonshine with the intent to sell.

Selectman Peter Cunningham said the incident is further complicated by the fact that the operation allegedly took place inside a town-owned facility, but added that the ensuing investigation found the town’s public water supply remained safe — and zero-proof.

“I think the long and short of it is that this was a hobby for the particular individual,” Cunningham said yesterday. “There was never any indication he drank at work. It was a hobby, and he probably thought it was no big deal.”

The Baddacook Water Treatment Plant is not located in a highly visible area. The plant, tucked away about 1,000 yards from Lowell Road and hidden beneath and behind a thick canopy of pine trees, sits at the foot of Baddacook Pond.

At the south end of the pond, the pump-house facility draws the bulk of the town’s drinking water from a groundwater well, where a capped cistern lies just steps from the shore.

Across the driveway from the cistern is the brick pump house, which contains an office and an intricate filtration system.

A worker at the plant refused to comment and also declined a request to show a reporter where police discovered the moonshine still.

Haddad said his office’s investigation ended the minute the employee resigned and submitted his retirement request. Despite confirmation that Collette was the employee responsible for the still, Haddad refused to offer his own confirmation.

“The investigation from our perspective is over because the employee no longer works for the town of Groton,” Haddad said.

According to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission’s website, the ABCC is controlled by State Treasurer Steven Grossman. But Grossman’s spokesman, Jon Carlisle, said the ABCC does not “duplicate enforcement efforts of a local board or municipality.”

According to federal and state laws, owning a still is legal but producing moonshine is against the law, despite the presence of laws permitting homemade wine-making and beer-brewing.

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