Rockport pump station online after sewerage hits harbor | News

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ROCKPORT —The town’s Dock Square Pump Station was back online Saturday morning, after overflows on Thursday and Friday poured more than 700,000 gallons of sewerage into Rockport Harbor, and station repairs were complicated Friday by a fire.

“The station is being staffed 24 hours a day until the electrical system and automated control mechanisms can be replaced this coming week,” according to a posting Saturday via the town’s CodeRed system.

“The Dock Square pump station is operating at least three pumps, which is normal and overflow capacity operations, from the portable generator from the NERAC facility,” the posting continued.

“At no time has the town’s drinking water been impacted; that remains safe to consume,” town officials stressed.

“The sewage overflow consists, or likely consists, of untreated or partially treated sewage and waste,” said Robert Craig, geographical information systems program manager for Public Works, on Friday. He advised people to avoid contact with the affected waters for at least 48 hours after the discharge or overflow ends, due to increased health risks from bacteria and other pollutants.

The state also banned the harvesting of shellfish in the area until Feb. 17.

Problems began at 2 p.m. Thursday when sewage began to overflow at the Dock Square Pump Station. According to the town Department of Public Works, the flow ended that night at 8:30, but not before an estimated 500,000 gallons of sewage overflow, consisting or likely consisting of untreated or partially treated sewage and waste, flowed into the north and south basins of Rockport Harbor at T Wharf.

On Friday morning, as electricians tried to re-energize the pump’s stations electrical panel, a small fire broke out “which took the pump station offline again,” town officials said. “The Fire Department responded and extinguished the fire and vented the building from the smoke conditions that had developed.”

Also Friday, about 285,000 gallons of sewerage discharged into the south Basin at T Wharf.

The sanitation trucks came and went Thursday and Friday from the area near Dock Square, transporting raw sewage. During the fire, pump trucks were in place pumping wastewater and transporting it to the town’s treatment facility.

Town officials asked residents to minimize their water usage Thursday and Friday as “water from washing machines and other home appliances in all parts town goes into the sewer system and impacts the Dock Square station. Residents were told regular water usage could resume Saturday.

Shellfish beds closed

Rockport Harbormasters Scott Story and Rosemary Lesch both reported Friday that according to the state Division of Marine Fisheries, shellfish beds in the area will be closed for 21 days.

“The Division of Marine Fisheries has closed shell fishing area N11.0 in the town of Rockport this afternoon (Friday) at approximately 11:30 a.m. upon learning of a sanitary sewer overflow from a pump station that occurred from 2 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2023 ,to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2023,” reads a Friday, Jan. 27, letter from Daniel McKiernan, director at the Division of Marine Fisheries in Boston, to the Rockport Select Board,

“As a result, the status of this area has been changed to “Closed to Shell Fishing” for 21 days or until further notification is made by the Division of Marine Fisheries.”

In addition, the agency says the approved classification area is closed to the harvest of shellfish for direct human consumption.

“Digging, harvesting or collecting and/or attempting to dig, harvest or collect shellfish and the possession of shellfish from the … defined area is prohibited.”

“People should avoid contact with the water in Sandy Bay and Rockport Harbor,” said Story on Friday.

Story said he has seen sewage overflows in the past “but not quite this large.”

“Fortunately, at this time of the year, most of our fishermen are out of the water,” said Story. “So, it’s not a huge impact at this time of the year.”

In a Friday morning e-mail to Vieira, town officials and members of the media, Craig said notification of the event is the result of a new state law, “An Act Promoting Awareness of Sewage in Public Water,” designed to notify residents when untreated sewage flows in Massachusetts waters.

EPA: Mover overflows each year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that sanitary sewer overflows cause the release of untreated or partially treated sewage.

According to the EPA, sanitary sewers are different than combined sewers which are designed to collect large volumes of storm water, in addition to sewage and industrial waste water.

The EPA reports that sanitary sewers can release raw sewage. These types of releases are called sanitary overflows (SSOs). SSOs can contaminate water systems, causing serious water quality problems and back-up into homes.

Releases also cause property damage and threaten public health, according to the EPA.

The EPA estimates there are between as many as 75,000 SSOs each year in the United States.

Those with questions about the Rockport incident are encouraged to contact the DPW’s Craig at or by telephone at 978-546-3525.

Staff Writer Andrea Holbrook contributed to this story by Stephen Hagan , who can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at

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