A whiff of trouble on the Martha’s Vineyard

An employee assigned to the MV Nantucket tested positive for COVID-19 - Rich Saltzberg

Updated Friday, 3:45 pm

There is an odor problem aboard the MV Martha’s Vineyard, just the latest in an ongoing string of issues since the ferry returned to service after a $17.5 million refurbishment.

Sewer gas has crept into the air, according to Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis. He described the problem as “periodic sewer gas odors” stemming from pipe venting issues. Steamship Authority plumbers and Senesco Marine plumbers are at work on the problem, Davis said. Davis was aboard Thursday afternoon and could detect the odor, he said. Asked by The Times if any pipes broke and leaked sewage, Davis said,

“I know there was a leaking pipe.” However, he said he was unaware of what type of pipe it was. Davis later said it was a hot water pipe.

Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker spoke to Davis, as well, after being alerted to questions raised about the odor. “I had a conversation with Bob Davis and he told me the issue is with the venting and the traps on the boat,” Crocker said. “He thinks there’s a problem with a vent and that’s causing the trap to drain and that’s what is causing the sewer smell.”

United States Coast Guard inspectors are overseeing work on a “sewage backup,” according to Ensign Nathan Mendes. Mendes later said Coast Guard officials revisited the vessel Friday afternoon and found crews “actively working to rectify the situation” and that the smell is diminishing. Officials encountered no evidence of a sewage spill, nor was a spill “brought to their attention,” he said.

Crocker said he asked Davis if any sewage leaked on the boat and Davis told him no.

Davis said the sewage tanks on MV Martha’s Vineyard are pumped out at least daily. He expects the vessel will remain in service for a few more weeks to come to help handle the volume of traffic expected to the Island from school vacations.

The Martha’s Vineyard continues to make its scheduled runs, as do both the MV Island Home and MV Woods Hole, which both returned Thursday.

Updated to reflect the pipe that was leaking and with more information from the Coast Guard. -Ed.


  1. what can you say ? It’s certainly harder to run a ferry line than keeping the toilets flowing– so if you can’t keep the literal stuff from stinking, how do you keep the boats running ? Low confidence here– perhaps we need to give the people at the top a bonus ..

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