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January 17, 2013

Council to hold special meeting on PI woes

NEWBURYPORT - Municipal leaders have scheduled a special meeting of the City Council on Saturday morning to discuss concerns and strategy regarding problems with the seven-year-old water system on Plum Island.

City Council President Tom O’Brien said the session is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. It was not clear at press time whether the meeting - all or part - would be open to the public.

Newbury Town Administrator Tracy Blais this week said that the water system on the island had experienced “failures” and that Newbury officials were working with Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday on identifying any weaknesses in the system - and developing a strategy to rectify the situation.

City officials will not specify the nature or extent of the “failures.” On the island, residents who have witnessed crews making repairs have said that bolts holding the 40-foot-long main water pipes together are rusting out and failing.

George Lawler, chairman of the Newburyport Board of Water Commissioners, said concern could revolve around “the quality of the couplings” that link together segments of underground pipe.

Lawler did not see the problem as a major crisis.

“There’s no real problem,” said Lawler, a longtime municipal leader. “Executive sessions have taken place and the mayor is handling the matter.”

In a statement yesterday, Mayor Donna Holaday said, “The Plum Island Water and Sewer System is fully operational and under close monitoring by Newburyport staff from our Water and Sewer Divisions.

“Given the two water-main breaks that occurred over the past year and a half, the city initiated a thorough investigation of the system last year,” she said in her statement. “Through this evaluative process, city officials have been working in coordination with Newbury officials and in conjunction with relevant state agencies, legal counsel and various contractors who were involved in this project.”

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