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‘Only flush when absolutely necessary’: Provincetown declares sewer emergency

"Any restaurant or food service business in this service area will need to cease operations immediately."

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Businesses along Commercial Street in Provincetown are among the properties being asked to cease operation due to a sewer emergency. Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe

Provincetown declared a sewer emergency on Thursday, urging residents and businesses in a portion of the town to “drastically reduce flow” into the wastewater system while repairs are underway on the downtown sewer system. 

“Any restaurant or food service business in this service area will need to cease operations immediately,” the town said. “This is necessary to prevent a further public health emergency caused by sewer overflows, and we need to drastically reduce flow to allow the critical repair work in order to get the town back to full capacity. Any residential property on this system must reduce water use, including dishwashing, laundry, showering, and only flush when absolutely necessary.”

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All public restrooms will be closed in Provincetown on Thursday and Friday, but officials said 18 porta potties will arrive by around 11 a.m. on Ryder Street next to town hall.

Issues with the system began on Tuesday afternoon when thunderstorms caused electrical issues at the Provincetown’s central vacuum station, which runs the downtown sewer system, according to the town. Since then, teams at the town’s wastewater treatment facility have been working on repairs.

On Wednesday, the town reported the system was “stabilized,” but more work was still needed as a “larger than normal wastewater volume sent into the sewer system” hampered repair efforts. 

The emergency declared on Thursday applies to properties on the vacuum sewer system, including those on Commercial Street from Snow Street to Point Street and on Bradford Street between Conwell Street and Prince Street, officials said. It doesn’t apply to properties on the town’s gravity system or those with on-site septic systems. 

Provincetown officials are estimating that up to 48 hours are needed to make the necessary repairs and get the system back to normal. 

“Our team will continue to provide updates throughout the next 48 hours,” the town said. “We want to thank everyone for their continued patience and cooperation.”

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