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Provincetown making progress, but sewer emergency is not over

"Without absolute cooperation the emergency conditions will take longer to resolve."

A sign hung on the window of the Lobster Pot restaurant on Commercial Street announces the temporary closure of the restaurant due to issues with the water and sewer systems. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

As a result of restrictions put in place Thursday after calling a sewer emergency, Provincetown has improved its wastewater situation, officials say — but it is not yet resolved, and the sewer emergency remains in place indefinitely.

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Issues with the sewer system began Tuesday afternoon after thunderstorms caused electrical issues at the central vacuum station, which runs Provincetown’s downtown sewer system. The town has been working on repairs, but demanded residents in a certain area reduce water use (“only flush when absolutely necessary”) and that restaurants and food service businesses located there close immediately.

The visitor population in Provincetown, a popular Cape Cod destination, was estimated to be nearly 30,000 in 2019, with over 13,000 of those tourists visiting between July 1 and September 30.

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After declaring the emergency early Thursday morning, the town said Thursday night that it had made progress, but that “the sewer emergency for properties on the vacuum sewer system is still in place at this time.” 

Provincetown officials said that as of Thursday at 9 p.m., 67% of structures/manholes were back online, 63% of the total length of the system was operating, 68% of total properties were functioning, and 80% of total flow had been reconnected.

An update 8:30 a.m. Friday said “we are moving in the right direction.”

“Crews worked overnight and the team spent considerable time getting the vacuum line on Bradford Street up and running,” the town said.

Even with a majority of properties functioning and a majority of the length of the system operating, they said they cannot connect one portion of the system at a time, so the situation will not be resolved until the entire vacuum system has been reconnected.

The affected area is Commercial Street from Snow Street to Point Street and Bradford Street between Conwell Street and Prince Street, the town said, providing a list of 556 addresses that must obey the ordinance.

“Without absolute cooperation the emergency conditions will take longer to resolve,” the town stated.

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Public restrooms and restaurants and food service businesses in the area will remain closed Friday. Porta potties have been placed on Ryder Street next to Town Hall.

“We are hopeful that we are getting closer to full restoration, but we can’t say for sure until every part of the system has been addressed,” the town said.

Another update is expected Friday afternoon.

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