Posted by: coastlinesproject | February 20, 2015

Plum Island; No solution to sewer problems.

Progress but no solution on PI
BY DYKE HENDRICKSON STAFF WRITER | Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015 3:20 am
NEWBURYPORT — Residents of the northern section of Plum Island last night were told that the troubled sewerage system is slowly being fixed, but officials made no predictions on when it will be back to normal.
Close to 200 islanders turned out for a meeting to learn more about problems in the disabled system that have forced many families to use bathroom facilities at the Salvation Army or at PITA Hall, where the meeting was held.
About 27 homes have received sewage backups; scores of homeowners have been told not to run washers, take showers or flush toilets.
“We are making good progress, but this is a tedious process,” said Mayor Donna Holaday, who chaired the meeting. “Any help we can get with digging out candy canes would be welcome.”
City officials say the AIRVAC sewer system has been experiencing “varying rates of vacuum loss” for almost a week.
If the vacuum power is lost, soiled water cannot be moved.
In some cases, it backs up into houses.
Most of the current problems affect residents of Northern Boulevard and side streets running off that thoroughfare.
But improvements in recent days have meant that houses from the center to 32nd Street are generally OK to use some water.
Homeowners from 32nd to 52nd streets were urged to use water sparingly.
Houses north of 52nd Street were warned not to use the water.
City engineers explained when candy canes, the thin vertical pipes in yards, are obstructed by snow, they cannot take in air to enable the vacuum system to operate. Water and sewage enters instead.
The candy cane units are crucial, but numerous residents said that summer residents aren’t here to shovel out their candy canes, so many of these units are not being cleared.
Several homeowners asked city officials for grids that would tell them where buried candy canes are located so they can dig them out.
Municipal engineers said they would attempt to provide maps.
Numerous listeners, most of whom were respectful if frustrated, said they would voluntarily dig out the units in their neighborhoods as soon as they learn where they are.
One woman asked if the National Guard can be called in to help clear the heavy snow, but Holaday said that does not appear possible.
Snow-clearing crews from Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland were here this week, and she said their efforts have helped the island.
Those crews will be gone by the weekend.
Municipal leaders said that any families who must leave their homes because of excessive backup can register with city officials and possibly be moved to temporary housing.
No families yet have been moved.
The mayor said that she has been in close touch with the state attorney general and the lieutenant governor on legal and logistical issues, but announced no initiatives at this time.
Homeowners were urged to register with city officials if they have experienced backups at 978-465-4420 or by emailing
Officials say that “as soon as the section of the system that impacts your home is cleared, the city will contact both you and Servicemaster (a private cleanup company) directly to schedule a cleanup.”
Municipal leaders say the core of the problem is that the sewerage system was not installed correctly.
Residents are learning that reality now, and problems will continue in the short term until all “leaks” in the vacuum system are corrected.
Homeowners appeared sobered by the news of the extent of the snow-driven problems, but some were as positive as possible.
“I came to use the bathroom and stayed for the meeting,” joked Kincade Webb, who lives on Basin Street on the northern end of the island. “I really need to know more about what is happening here.”
City officials urged residents to sign up for emails and red alerts about the situation.
Signups can be made on the city’s website,

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. Available in local bookstores, and Amazon, Also See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page. 10% will go toward the David Mountain Memorial Fund to provide environmental books to Cape Cod and North Shore students.



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