The Block Island Times

Sewer/Water activity slows down for season

By Stephanie Turaj | Nov 26, 2012

At an otherwise fairly routine meeting for the Sewer and Water commissions meeting Nov. 13, members greeted new commission alternate Allan MacKay and bid farewell to Water Superintendent Dave Simmons.

Simmons will resign to take another job effective December 1. Water Chair Sandra Finizia commended Simmons for his years of dedication, and everyone in the room clapped to honor him.

And at the beginning of the meeting, Sewer Chair Peter McNerney welcomed Allan MacKay to the table. The Town Council appointed MacKay to serve as an alternate for both commissions. MacKay spent his first meeting listening in to the conversation, which ranged from operations and finance reports, bid proposals and customer usage issues.

Post-storm assessment, monthly operations

During Hurricane Sandy, which struck the island Oct. 29, sewer reports show that flows increased by about five times the usual rate from 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. The average influent flow was at 525 gallons per minute during this time, but for the rest of the day flows hovered around 100 gallons per minute.

Despite this, McNerney said both plants performed “admirably,” and Sandy could have hit much harder than it did. He added that the sewer and water plants should file reimbursement claims with FEMA for any costs relating to Sandy such as worker overtime, supplies and damage.

Interim Sewer Superintendent Chris Blane presented a timeline of activity during Sandy. More than 100 alarms came in during that day from all the systems, but “everyone rose to the challenge and performed well above what was needed of them,” Blane wrote in his report. Some mechanical parts inside the plant failed, and Blane is working to replace them.

Blane also reported that in October, there were major electrical upgrades performed by O’Rourke Electrical.

Simmons presented his monthly operations report, noting that the water plant fared pretty well also. He said that the Water Company saw a decrease in production by 9.98 percent over last year in October, and most other activity remained fairly routine.

Usage forgiveness

Three requests for abating charges occupied much of the commissions’ time. The first was a request by the Spring House Hotel (Plat 8, Lot 84). Spring House general manager David Houseman explained to the commission that there was an underground water leak that flowed into the Spring House Annex basement.

The Spring House has well water, but is on the town sewer system. The leak did not flow into the sewer system, the sewer commission agreed, and members voted to abate the sewer usage for the leak and any penalties that would directly relate to it.

The second request came in writing from Mary Simonelli on Connecticut Avenue (Plat 6, Lot 33), who also requested abatement on sewer charges due to a hose that she said was left running during the summer.

However, the commission felt there was no proof that the hose was left on, and her usage charts did not show a significant increase that would indicate the hose was left on. Commissioners voted not to abate the bill, unless Simmons found an indication upon closer inspection of her usage that a hose could have been left on.

Lastly, Cynthia Geer of the Block Island Depot (Plat 5, Lot 18-2) wrote to request abatement for penalties due to a running toilet. The commissions agreed to abate the overuse penalties.


Town Finance Director Amy Land reported that water October financials are “right where they were last year at this time.” Sewer income was down for the month of October, she said, but remain right on track for the year.

The commission plan to sign the Leasehold Conservation Easement with Block Island Land Trust at the Linksz property (Plat 9, Lot 7) after the Land Trust’s Nov. 19 meeting.

The commissions adopted procedures for public records requests, to be in compliance with the state’s new Access to Public Records Act. The Clerk of the Water and Sewer districts, currently Janet Ziegler, will serve as the Public Records Officer for each district.

The Sewer Commission awarded a bid for work to video-inspect the sewer collection system between Beach Avenue and Bridgegate Square. The work will go to the only bidder on the project, Inland Waters, for about $2,250. The commissions also agreed to put out an RFB for a Furnace/Boiler Service for the Sewer and Water plants.

The sewer commission also discussed the timing of roof repairs at the sewer plant, as McNerney explained there were concerns about the repairs being done too late in the season. Members agreed to have Blane and town engineer Jim Geremia coordinate with the contractor on the repair.

The commissions set a date of Dec. 17 to discuss their management agreement with the town.


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