Mechanical failure at Hull treatment plant sends raw sewage flowing into Atlantic

An estimated 2 million gallons of raw sewage will be pumped into the Atlantic Ocean each day that the Hull wastewater treatment plant is off-line due to flooding inside the facility, town and state officials said this afternoon.

“The plant is being bypassed,’’ said Edmund Coletta, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “And raw sewage is being pumped out into the ocean.’’

According to Coletta, the Hull plant processes 1.7 million gallons daily, but with recent heavy rains and snow melt flowing through the system, the volume of raw sewage is expected to exceed the plant’s capacity.

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Coletta said DEP is monitoring the environmental impact, but he deferred to town officials for information on when the plant will go back on line. However, until it does, he said the raw sewage will have to be sent into the Atlantic.

“At least it’s somewhat diluted,’’ Coletta said of the raw sewage. He said the raw sewage would be pumped through an existing outfall pipe, which ends well out to sea.

In a separate telephone interview, Town Manager Philip E. Lemnios said that just after 1 a.m. today, the plant’s operators reported an abnormally high volume of sewage water coming into the plant’s basement, which has a 20-foot well to handle any sort of flooding, Lemnios said.

Despite the well, the volume of water overwhelmed the pumping abilities of the plant, which is operated by a private company, United Water, under contract with the town, Lemnios said.

An additional 10 feet of sewage water flooded the plant, likely damaging its internal electronics and pumps, Lemnios said. He cautioned, however, that it is too early to determine the extent of the damage.

Officials stressed that the flooding has no impact on the quality of drinking water in the town and that the flooding is confined to the plant.

The town closed its three schools today. Officials are meeting this afternoon to decide whether schools will open Friday.

At the plant, eight large pumps have been deployed to pump out the water and have “stabilized the situation,” Lemnios said.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and local agencies and departments are helping with the problem.

It could take another four to five hours to completely pump out the water in the plant. Only then can officials determine the extent of the damage. The pumps have been reducing water levels two to three feet each hour, Lemnios said.

Officials are asking residents to minimize their use of drinking water.

The plant is located at the far end of Hull just past the Hull Yacht Club.

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