The Block Island Times

Sewer Superintendent: A summer with no major mishaps

Thanks staff for a job well done
By Lars Trodson | Oct 29, 2013

There was a palpable sigh of relief in the monthly report that Sewer Superintendent Chris Blane presented this week to the Water and Sewer Commissions.

“Well, we made it,” he wrote, with somewhat more emotion than a sewer report may usually have. “The summer season is finally over, and without any spills, overflows, or other catastrophes.”

Blane was referring to a series of sewage spills into the Great Salt Pond that occurred with unnerving frequency from August through December last year. Talks on how to avoid future spills, centering on what kind of equipment and upgrades may be needed to achieve that, are still ongoing. But the high usage months have passed, and Blane wanted to thank his staff for a job well done.

“The staff here all worked very hard to make sure everything went smoothly this past summer, and when emergencies came up — and they always do — everyone pitched in to get things back to normal again,” Blane wrote.

The majority of the joint meeting of the Water and Sewer Commissions centered on a discussion of whether the commissions ought to move ahead with work that has previously been put out to bid to upgrade the pump station computer monitoring systems or to combine a proposal to replace 600 feet of the force main pipe on Ocean Avenue with some physical repairs to the pump stations themselves.

Keeping in mind an earlier directive from the Town Council of “no more spills,” Blane recommended that the computer system monitoring the pump stations — Ocean Avenue 1, Ocean Avenue 2, and the stations at the Boat Basin, Champlin’s Marina and Old Harbor — be upgraded first.

“If I had to choose, I’d rather know how my pumps are running,” Blane said to the commissioners. “I’d like to see the force main repaired, but the pump stations concern me greatly.” Town Engineer Jim Geremia said the upgrades to the computer system would total about $260,000.

Sewer Commission Chair Pete McNerney spent some time questioning Geremia on Blane’s recommendation to upgrade the pump stations first.

“It’s my opinion that we committed to doing the force main to Bridgegate Square, and I want to make sure that, if we committed to doing that, that’s what we do,” said McNerney in a conversation with The Block Island Times the day after the meeting.

Upgrades to the pump stations, the monitoring system and the force main will cost about $1.25 million, according to Geremia.

“If you’re going to do [the work], do it in the off-season. Now,” said Geremia to the commissioners.

In other news, the Commissioners met in closed session regarding the fate of Water and Sewer Department clerk Janet Ziegler, who has been suspended from her position since Aug. 30.

McNerney said there has been no decision, but that a settlement with Ziegler is being considered.

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