After Superstorm Sandy, 77 percent of Waterford was left without power, leaving many in dark houses as their food slowly rotted in their refrigerators.
Yet while power was an inconvenience, the far more important utility continued to work. Throughout the storm, despite the fact that power went out to all 27 pump stations, there were no issues with Waterford’s 120-mile sewer system.
“We really fared very well,” Waterford Utility Commission Assistant Director Jim Bartelli said. “And you have to chalk it up to good maintenance.”
As mentioned, all 27 pump stations lost power immediately following the storm, although stayed running thanks to generators. And while two of the pump stations were inaccessible to the utility commission for a bit thanks to downed trees and wires, none of them took on water.
Bartelli explained that the pump stations are built above the flood plain, so water does not rush into the station. That ensured that even the two pump stations in the areas hit the hardest, the Mago Point station and the Ridgewood Park station, made it through Sandy unscathed.
The other big issue the utility commission had was energizing the 170 grinder pumps it still maintains throughout town. The commission energized the grinder pumps once every 24 hours, to avoid sewers from backing up, Bartelli said. For the most part, people did not overuse the sewer system and energizing the pumps once every 24 hours was adequate, Bartelli said.
Still, the work continues. As of 1 p.m. Friday, Bartelli said eight pump stations were without power and there were still grinder pumps that needed to be energized. Bartelli said all six maintainers were out working in three two-man teams energizing the 170 grinder pumps, a process that takes about 20 minutes each stop and must be everyday.
What Could Have Happened
If the pump stations lose power and stop working, the sewage in those areas will eventually settle to the lowest point, which would be somebody’s basement, Bartelli said. The same thing would happen if a grinder pump were not energized, he said.
Obviously, if a sewer backed up into somebody’s home, that would present a huge health risk, he said. Luckily, the commission was on top of it and no sewers backed up in Waterford, Bartelli said.