historic photo of a Costa Mesa street in the 1940sA Brief History of CMSD

In the 1930’s and early 1940’s, prior to the incorporation of the City of Costa Mesa in 1953, Costa Mesa community members were disposing their trash in a landfill owned and operated by the City of Newport Beach. As the landfill began nearing capacity, the City allowed only its residents to utilize the dump site. On June 22, 1943, a group of concerned community members filed a petition with the Orange County Board of Supervisors to form the Costa Mesa Sanitary District (CMSD) under the provisions of the California’s Health and Safety Code.

The Board of Supervisors appointed J.A. Woolley as the registered civil engineer to draft the proposed boundaries of the District. On December 21, 1943, the Board of Supervisors approved the District’s boundaries and ordered special elections to be held on February 8, 1944 to officially determine the formation of the District and for the election of a five-member Board of Directors to govern the District. The proposition to create the District passed with over 76% of the votes in favor of the new district. On February 11, 1944, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution that officially formalized the District. The new Board of Directors then appointed Charles W. Tewinkle as their first Board President. Tewinkle was also the first Mayor of the City of Costa Mesa.

historic sign announcing a meeting notice for Costa Mesa Sanitary DistrictIn the 1940’s, cesspools and septic tanks were the norm in Costa Mesa. Under the Sanitary District Act of 1923, CMSD's Board of Directors decided to expand the District’s operations to include owning and maintaining a sewer collection system. In 1944, the District received an $18,000 federal grant and hired the firm Bulot & Dondro to perform the planning, engineering and designing of a sewer collection system.  The firm also coordinated efforts with the County of Orange and other local communities who were planning similar projects at the time.  Due to World War II, there was a shortage of cast iron material for the construction of sewer pipes.  After the war ended, the Board of Directors voted for the issuance of bonds to fund Costa Mesa’s first sewer system.  By 1953, the District had its first operational sewer collection system, which is still operating today.