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February 14, 2013

PI water woes remain mystery

Lawyers hired to probe possible failures in system

NEWBURYPORT — There is trouble in river city, but municipal officials don’t exactly know what the problem is.

Mayor Donna Holaday confirmed that municipal water and sewer engineers are concerned with the water system on Plum Island, which has experienced breaks in the primary line, but that testing and analysis must take place before officials can move forward with a solution.

City leaders hosted an open meeting last night to discuss residents’ concerns that the water system on Plum Island is vulnerable to serious failure.

Though most of the island’s 1,200 residences are in Newbury, the city of Newburyport is responsible for the water and sewer systems on the island.

Last night’s session was serious in tone, with officials resolute in their commitment to identify the problem and work on solutions.

Holaday said that based on several disruptions in the water line to the island over the past 18 months — and on evidence found when the breaks were repaired — city officials feel there could be material or structural failures in the system that was built in 2006 at a cost of $22.9 million.

She added the system is currently working without disruption.

“We don’t have answers at this time, but we are having this meeting to address concerns and clear up misinformation,” Holaday said.

All discussion focused on the water system, but the mayor said she “couldn’t be 100 percent sure that there is no problem with the sewer system.”

The subject of financial cost was not addressed, but it was revealed that the city, at the very least, is going to have to pay to find out what is wrong.

City officials have retained the Boston law firm of Rubin and Rudman LLP and they will be paying for soil and water analysis by an independent testing company in Delaware. It is also seeking support from an independent engineering firm.

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