The Block Island Times

Tests show sewage leaked into GSP

By Gloria S. Redlich | Dec 11, 2012

Despite official protests last week that closing the Great Salt Pond to shellfishing was purely “precautionary,” test results seem to indicate the the pond did experience a problem last week after a sewer leak was discovered on Ocean Avenue just before Thanksgiving. Harbormaster Steve Land took water and shellfish samples mid-last week and submitted them to the Department of Environmental Management. Results showed high bacteria levels in shellfish, he said, as well as slightly elevated levels in the water in Harbor Pond only.

As of press time Thursday, the GSP was still closed, but new tests results are expected back Friday, Dec. 7, and the closure will be re-assessed then.

Meanwhile, at a special meeting of the New Shoreham Sewer Commission on December 4, Superintendent Chris Blane announced that Pump Station 1 is up and running once again. He made it clear that there was “still work to be done” on the station, however. Crews working at the station site have created a temporary by-pass hook-up that allowed them to install new pipes closer to the surface.

The station, which dates from 1976 and sits approximately 20 feet underground, is so old and situated so deep that any guess at the cause of the break has to be conjecture, Blane said. But he speculated that it might have been overwhelmed by the “sheer volume of water pouring over the road” during Hurricane Sandy’s swipe at the island. At one point during Sandy, he said, it operated nearly six hours straight without stopping.

As a result, “We had to put ice bags around the pump to keep it from overheating.” He felt the island was “lucky about the time of year… that this didn’t happen on the Fourth of July.”

Blane indicated that discussions were still ongoing with town engineer Jim Geremia about whether in the long-term “we can make the pump do what we want it to do.” To that end, they will continue to test the station, he said.

Later in the week, Town Manager Nancy Dodge said that the company hired by the state to work on storm damaged Corn Neck Road and Spring Street, Northern Construction, will also repair the section of Ocean Avenue damaged during the course of sewer leak repairs.

Trench boxes

Other discussion revolved around whether to rent or purchase a trench box, which is a heavily braced box made of wood or steel used where excavations and pipe-laying take place. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that a trench box be used when a trench is deeper than five feet (in most states), four (in others).

Sewer Commission Chair Peter McNerney said that because of the depths of the excavation needed on Ocean Avenue, a trench box was needed to assure the safety of those working. He explained that while the weekly rental would be $1,000, he’d discovered there was a box for sale for $11,000 and thought it might be practical for the commission to purchase it. After some discussion, however, most board members disagreed with that need and suggested contractors should be the ones to purchase a box if necessary.

On another issue, McNerney praised the crews who worked on the pump station as “very hard-working,” and wanted to pay the bills owed to those companies providing the repairs in a timely manner, a position with which the board agreed. These included town sewer contractor A. Transue, Robbie Brown Septic Services, Boyle and Fogarty Construction and Process Engineering.


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