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October 17, 2013

Water, sewer issues aired Condition of PI hydrants, connections a concern

Condition of PI hydrants, connections a concern

PLUM ISLAND — The possibility of failing fire hydrants and deteriorating water connections to homes were among the worst-case scenarios revealed by Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday last night to a standing-room-only crowd at PITA Hall who came to hear the latest news regarding the island’s troubled water and sewer systems.

While Holaday and other city officials downplayed the chance of either scenario taking place, there was enough concern regarding the condition of the island’s 187 hydrants, which are connected to the new system, that seasonal flushing was canceled for fear it could damage them, according to Holaday. The city will be checking those fire hydrants and connections, she added.

After the meeting, Holaday said the city had known about the fire hydrant issue since February when an automobile accident damaged a hydrant and led to officials noting potential issues related to bolts that connected hydrants to the water system.

During the roughly 90-minute briefing, Holaday said that contractor CDM Smith of Cambridge acknowledged significant corrosion had been found at two water mains that had burst since the 2007 installation of the island’s $22.9 million water and sewer systems. The first water main break took place in April 2011 near the Plum Island Bridge and another during Super Storm Sandy last October.

In addition to fixing the two troubled areas, the contractor has agreed to take 50 additional soil samples to determine if the corrosion issue is found elsewhere in the system.

“This is just one little tiny fix they want to do,” Holaday said, regarding fixing the two water main areas.

Over the last year, Plum Islanders have been temporarily left without water on several occasions as the system has sputtered. There is growing concern among municipal leaders that major problems could arise should it be determined that a fundamental problem exists. In recent months, city leaders have launched a study looking at the air vac system to determine what is plaguing the sewer lines, which run from the mainland to both Newburyport and Newbury residents on Plum island.

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