BUCKSPORT — Town officials hope they have found a permanent fix to a problem with a section of the town’s integrated sewer line that overflowed during heavy rains earlier this month.
Bucksport was one of several towns to report problems on or around March 7, when rain storms funneled excessive runoff into their wastewater treatement plant, according to one Department of Environmental Protection official who is investigating the Bucksport incident.
The sewer line that runs from the town’s pump station near the Hannaford supermarket parallel to Main Street to the treatment plant filled and forced up a manhole cover, which allowed sewage mixed with stormwater to escape onto property owned by Susan Walsh. Walsh notified the DEP and the town.
The line was installed in 1986, and Walsh said the problem has happened before.
“Three times I’ve had to deal with this issue,” Walsh said in a recent telephone interview. “I know it’s been over time, but [it should not be happening].”
Walsh said she is concerned about the environmental impact of having sewage overflow onto her property and the harm it might cause to her young grandchild who might want to play in the area. She also is concerned that the problem could lower the value of her property and affect her ability to sell it in the future.
Photos taken by Walsh show how the effluent from the sewer line had melted a swath in the snow that led downhill toward the Penobscot River. Stacy Beyer, an environmental specialist with the DEP, said Tuesday that the town reported a small amount of sludge was discovered near the manhole, but that it did not have an estimate on how much had leaked from the line. It was not clear whether any of the overflow had reached the Penobscot River.
Town crews responded quickly once they were notified of the problem, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond. They shut down one of the pumps at the station, decreasing the amount of wastewater being sent to the treatment plant. That funneled more water to the town’s combined sewer overflow station where it was treated. Crews also removed about 2 gallons of debris from around the manhole cover, he said.
After a previous incident in 2007, the town replaced the manhole cover and thought that had solved the problem, according to Raymond. He said he now is considering replacing the manhole cover with one that bolts down to the sewer line. That will be done as soon as the weather allows. He added that workers also plan to run a camera through the sewer line to determine if there are any other problems along that line.
Beyer said the DEP is continuing its investigation of the incident, but had not yet issued a decision. That process generally takes about 30 days, she said.