NLC News: South Beach Street/Broad Street Sewer Failure

The Nantucket Land Council has been actively monitoring the Sewer Failure in downtown Nantucket.  Executive Director, Cormac Collier, has created a map that details location of the events over the past several days (please see below). On January 4, 2018, there was a catastrophic sewer break along South Beach Street. It is believed that there were two breaks, one in front of the Nantucket Yacht Club Parking Lot and one between the Juice Bar and Walters. The flooding tide from the storm (the highest we have ever seen it) most likely was a leading cause coupled with the freezing temperatures that followed.

Map of Downtown Nantucket – South Beach Street Sewer Failure

There were several areas of sewage discharge entering the harbor from stormwater outfalls. There was a sewage back up at the corner of South Beach Street and Easton Street. This surfaced from a manhole cover, entered the stormwater drainage system and discharged from Outfall #1. Sewage surfacing from Break(s) #1 entered the stormwater system and discharged from Outfall #2. Sewage Surfacing from Break(s) #2 entered the stormwater system and also discharged from Outfall #2. Sewage backed up at an Easy Street manhole, went into the stormwater system and discharged at Outfall #3. At a certain point the Town wanted to direct all the sewage into one area of the harbor and pumped directly from a manhole in South Beach Street to a collection unit located above the bulkhead at the Nantucket Yacht Club. This collection unit screened out the larger material before it went directly into the harbor.

The broken line was successfully bypassed in the past day and sewage is no longer entering the harbor from this line.

Clean up began yesterday that consisted of spraying a bleach solution on the roads and cleaning (pumping) out all the affected catch basins and stormwater lines. The Town is sampling the water from the outfalls for a variety of pollutants and will be doing so for the foreseeable future. They will need to be sampled only on a low tide and we have relayed this to the Town. We are curious to see if the sediment below the outfalls should be tested as well.

Today, we attended the public information session put on by the Town at the 4 Fairgrounds Rd. Public Safety Facility.  Town Administration, the Sewer Department, the Nantucket Department of Health, and several other town department heads were present at this informational meeting.  An overview of the failure was outlined and plans for clean up were outlined.  This meeting was videotaped and will be made available to the public.  Representatives from the DEP and the EPA will be on island tomorrow, Wednesday, January 11, 2018, to assess the cleanup and determine future actions as necessary.

We at the Nantucket Land Council have been in constant communication with the Town’s Natural Resources Coordinator. At this point we believe the town is doing all they can do. However, over the following months it is critical that the Town properly assess the condition of every sewage pipe in areas that are threatened by floodwaters. The Town has indicated that they are committed to doing all that is necessary to prevent this disaster from happening again. We were very fortunate that this was not during the warm season when things were growing or else we would have most likely seen oxygen levels in the water column plummet, fish kills, and algae blooms.

Oil slick as seen at Easy Street outfall.

On a separate but similarly disturbing note, an oil/gas discharge has been occurring at the Easy Street Outfall for the past few days (see picture above). We relayed our concerns to the town and our understanding of where the origin might be located. We believe that they may have found an old oil tank in a basement that may be the culprit but more investigation will be necessary.  The Nantucket Land Council will continue to monitor this situation as well.

We will update via Facebook (@nantucket.council) and Instagram (@nantucketlandcouncil) as this situation continues to develop.