Sewage leak prompts free water

Residents of Donaldbin Close in Edgartown worried about effects.

The water department is giving residents of Donaldbin Close in Edgartown free access to town water due to a sewage leak that occured last November. — Gabrielle Mannino

A sewage leak that occurred last November on Donaldbin Close in Edgartown has the water department giving some homes free access to town water.

Several distraught residents of the small Edgartown neighborhood voiced their concerns at a joint meeting Monday between selectmen, the water department, and the wastewater department.

On Nov. 18, raw sewage was spotted bubbling on the ground near the end of Donaldbin Close. The next day, members of the wastewater department removed 25 cubic yards of soil from the area and discovered a fitting on the sewage line had broken and was leaking into the ground.

The town’s health department also performed several water quality tests for wells within 100 feet of the broken pipe, but all the tests came back negative for contaminants. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requires wells within 100 feet of a sewage leak be tested for contaminants.

The pipe that broke was installed in 2008, raising fears among abutting homeowners that the leak could have been going on for a long time. David Thompson, facilities manager at the town’s wastewater department, told selectmen while the leak was small and sewage tends to come to the surface quickly, the amount of fill that was removed from the site was cause for concern.

“We have no idea how long this has actually been going on,” Thompson said.

Due to the concern, abutting homes within 100 feet of the leak were given the option to connect to town water free of charge.

The water department will waive the usage charge for the first 49,999 gallons of water used.

Edgartown health agent Matt Poole told selectmen the board of health is “not seeing any indication here of a connection” after drawing 10 water samples in the area, with none coming back with contaminants linked to the sewage leak. He said he would continue to test wells.

Charles Morano, a resident along the road, said he was concerned about his water because his well sits 45 feet outside of the 100-foot zone, and he now he thinks he might have to connect to town water.

“Seems like some consideration should be shown for somebody who is so close,” he said.

Stuart Fuller, the town’s outgoing highway superintendent, who lives on the property where the leak occurred, said the leak was not small. He believes it has been leaking for a significant amount of time. “It was not a small leak coming out of it. It was more like a garden hose, so five-plus gallons per minute came out of the break,” he said.

Fuller added that he has had to purchase several gallons of bottled water a day for his family, and that hooking the neighborhood up to town water needs to be done quickly.

Town administrator James Hagerty said the town has to continue to follow up with testing and follow DEP standards. The project to hook up homeowners within 100 feet of the leak to town water will cost the water department upwards of $30,000. The town is not required to hook up homeowners to town water, because testing on wells has come back negative, but Hagerty said he understands homeowners being concerned about their water. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

In other business, selectmen asked Hagerty to advertise positions for a Community Preservation Act (CPA) evaluation committee. The committee would be a study group appointed to see what the rules and regulations are for withdrawing funds from the CPA.

The evaluation committee was approved by town voters at annual town meeting. Hagerty said certain voters on the floor at town meeting had concerns about the value of the CPA and wanted more oversight with the use of funds.

“Those funds have built a lot of tremendous things in the town, but we do owe it to [voters] to have a study group for various stakeholders. See what we’ve funded, what the costs have been, and kind of look at it holistically,” Hagerty said.

As selectman Margaret Serpa pointed out, Community Preservation funds can be used for historic preservation, conservation, and affordable housing.