‘Illicit’ sump pump blamed for sewage release


Updated 5:30 pm

During a deluge of rain on Thursday, a town pumping station was overwhelmed, sending groundwater into the town’s wastewater system, and causing a surface release of wastewater at 19 Beach Road.

The release created a foul odor between The Times office at 30 Beach Road and Five Corners. Tisbury officials found an “illicit” sump pump connection, according to an incident report, contributed to the failure of a municipal grinder pump station. That connection was discovered at 25 Beach Road, the building that houses Ackee Tree Caribbean Grocery.

In an order issued Friday, Tisbury building commissioner Ross Seavey and Tisbury plumbing and gas inspector Michael Ciancio gave Vineyard Beach, LLC, the apparent property owner, 72 hours to disconnect the sump pump and to remove the wiring to the pump. 

Tisbury officials working in conjunction with Maciel and Sons were able to stop the flow of unsanitary water at 3 pm Thursday, according to the report. A report made to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection states the area was disinfected “using a 10 to 1 [bleach] mix” the following morning, after the rain stopped. The report estimates 300 gallons escaped to the surface. 

The powerful rainstorm on Thursday dumped 2.63 inches of rain, according to Thomas Hodgson, a weather watcher with Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network (CoCoRaHS). Beach Road was flooded in the area of Five Corners, with vehicles looking more like boats as they passed through the standing water. 

The same storm dumped as much as 6 inches of rain in Chatham, according to CoCoRaHS data.

“The wastewater department was notified yesterday afternoon that there was a strong smell of sewage on Beach Road, and they responded immediately and found that the pump chamber behind [Synergy] station was not pumping,” Grande wrote. “This chamber handles several business[es], and has two sewer ejection pumps that transfer the waste usage from the buildings to the town’s main collection system pipes. The pumps could not keep up with the amount of intake water. The preliminary finding is that a sub-pump was connected to the town chamber. This sub-pump was pumping groundwater into the chamber at a rate that the town pumps could not keep up with.”

Friday morning there was a work crew digging into the pavement outside the gas station. The road is fully accessible to passing traffic, with the assistance of traffic cones and a detail officer on the scene. Kirk Metell, the town’s DPW director, said that work by Lawrence Lynch has to do with the ongoing Beach Road project.

Grande applauded the efforts of town workers responding to Thursday’s incident: “I and the select board wish to express our thanks to all town and private personnel who responded under extremely bad conditions yesterday,” Grande wrote. “They averted a larger problem by their quick and decisive response. Again, I am so pleased with the performance of everyone involved.”

Updated with more information from the town. George Brennan contributed to this report.


  1. Wow…and those guys are employed. When will the GRANDE stop clapping for mediocrity while the town smells like $h17???
    First the Manson house dumps water in the sewer and now a rain storm overwhelms it.
    Time to change the top, the GRANDE must go…somewhere else!!!

  2. FYI: I set up a rain gauge Wed eve, at my home in Vineyard Haven (the Lagoon Area) and recorded just short of 4” rainfall this morn (Fri).

  3. Congratulations on the headline. Your attempts to emulate the the New York Daily News sometimes do not match them. But this time you definitely had a nose for the job.

  4. With an increase in rainfall and storms, it is becoming crystal clear that it’s not a good idea to build in a flood zone (on top of fill). The fact that the DOT no longer plans to install an upgraded stormwater system on Beach Rd. means that other solutions need to be implemented. The EPA has a grant to install new solutions in problem areas and has chosen Tisbury as the location. The Town should work collaboratively with the EPA team to mitigate some of the effects of stormwater in this critical area for the island.

    • Sage advice from someone who had the opportunity to implement that, but, failed. Instead just blindly followed the clown in the crystal palace and the GRANDE.

  5. Very interesting comment. Helpful would be a link to the program – here… https://www.epa.gov/snep/tisbury-ma-impervious-cover-disconnection-icd-project-integrated-stormwater-management#s One of the first elements of the project is to deal with impervious surfaces. But we need not confine ourselves to impervious surfaces when so many permeable solutions are available. This project proposal appears to have been initiated in 2018 and the project manager is Jay Grande according to the document and the MVC is involved but your comment is the first we hear of it. Perhaps someone, somewhere, could have taken some kind of action before Mass DOT prepares to put concrete over our expanded road thus exponentially increasing water flow and velocity.

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