Provincetown sewer updates: Relief comes Friday night for residents, businesses Saturday

PROVINCETOWN — A restoration of the vacuum sewer system occurred Friday evening but restaurants were to remain closed until Saturday morning, town officials said Friday evening.

Residents and lodging visitors were allowed to return to normal use of water.

A confirmation for restaurants and other businesses to open was to be issued Saturday morning.

"As of 6 p.m., we are pleased to report that the entirety of the downtown vacuum sewer system has been returned to stable operation," a notice from the town stated on Friday.

Sewer repair crews were moving steadily through the West End by Friday afternoon.

“We’ve made significant progress,” Paul Roux, the senior regional manager with Woodard and Curran sewer operators, said as he stood at the corner of West Vine Street.

Repairs continued Friday on the public vacuum sewer system, which failed earlier in the week due to storm damage, according to town officials.

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Gary McMakin, with Robert B. Our in Harwich, opens a sewer gate on Friday in Provincetown to assist in septage pumping along Commercial Street. The town's vacuum sewer system failed after storm damaged the equipment earlier in the week.
Gary McMakin, with Robert B. Our in Harwich, opens a sewer gate on Friday in Provincetown to assist in septage pumping along Commercial Street. The town's vacuum sewer system failed after storm damaged the equipment earlier in the week.

Sewer system: Checking every sewer connection in Provincetown. Here's what it takes to fix the problem

Town Manager Alex Morse provided an update Friday morning

"We currently have all the parts we need," Town Manager Alex Morse said in an email Friday. But as the work progresses, another 200 controllers could be needed and were scheduled to arrive Friday, Morse said.

Installation of the parts needed for the sewer system was expected to be completed later on Friday or early Saturday, in the best of circumstances, he said.

There are approximately 356 connections on the vacuum sewer system, which is a subset of the 1,500 properties on the system. Another 1,500 properties in Provincetown are not on the public sewer system, and instead use a site-specific system.

Dylan Kaeselau of James Roderick Rubbish and Septic Service pumps wastewater into a tanker Friday morning on Commercial Street in Provincetown. Repairs to the public vacuum sewer system continued on Friday after a storm damaged equipment, town officials said.
Dylan Kaeselau of James Roderick Rubbish and Septic Service pumps wastewater into a tanker Friday morning on Commercial Street in Provincetown. Repairs to the public vacuum sewer system continued on Friday after a storm damaged equipment, town officials said.

Late Thursday evening, the town of Provincetown reported progress on repairs to the sewer vacuum system, and lowered wastewater flows that allow repairs to be made.

"Despite this progress, we cannot connect one portion of the system at a time," the town said in an emailed statement. "The entire vacuum system needs to be reconnected in order to get back online and back to normal."

The repair teams planned to work overnight, with an update Friday morning.

On Thursday evening, nearly every eatery along Commercial Street in the downtown area was closed except for Spiritus Pizza, which is on its own independent septic system, according to the owner. Portable restrooms were lined up in the parking spaces next to Town Hall.

A repair crew from the town of Provincetown's water department uses Trav-L-Vac equipment Thursday to clean sewer system valve boxes along Bradford Street.
A repair crew from the town of Provincetown's water department uses Trav-L-Vac equipment Thursday to clean sewer system valve boxes along Bradford Street.

Provincetown restaurants and businesses that are open

The Provincetown sewer emergency has resulted in a number of temporary closings for restaurants and bars in the area, but there are still plenty open that you can enjoy. In addition, according to a post on the Provincetown Business Guild Facebook page Friday morning, "the situation is expected to be resolved within the next day so that Town is ready for the start of Carnival week on Sunday."

Some of the businesses still currently open include Farland at the Beach, Irie Eats, Liz's Cafe and Anybody's Bar, Mac's Seafood, Provincetown House of Pizza, and more. Check the post here for the full list, which is subject to change.

What happened in Provincetown on Thursday

On Thursday morning, residents and business owners were alerted to a problem with the Provincetown sewer system. 

Restaurants were told close and hundreds of residents on the system were told they "must reduce water use, including dishwashing, laundry, showering, and only flush when absolutely necessary."

"Nightmare" is the word that came to mind for Guillermo Yingling, co-owner of Spiritus Pizza on Commercial Street, speaking generally.

"Having to close on what could have potentially been the busiest day of the year, there's no way to recoup that income," Yingling said.

The town estimated Thursday morning that it could take up to 48 hours "to make the repairs and get the system back to normal," according to the alert.

Is Carnival in Provincetown canceled?

"Hopefully it will be resolved by Carnival Week,” Town Manager Alex Morse said Thursday. “We’re getting it fixed as soon as possible. It’s not easy but it’s necessary.

The 43rd annual Carnival Week is from Saturday to Saturday, Aug. 13 through Aug. 20, with a theme of “Monsters, Myths & Legends.” The carnival, billed as Provincetown’s largest summer festival, will include the Carnival Parade on Aug 18.

“Monsters, Myths & Legends": Carnival returns to Provincetown: Everything you need to know

Where is the Provincetown sewer broken?

The sewer emergency affected 356 sewer connections, out of about 1,500 properties that are connected to the town's sewer system.

The emergency included properties on Commercial Street from Snow Street to Point Street and properties on Bradford Street between Conwell Street and Prince Street.

About half of the properties in Provincetown are connected to the public sewer system while the others have on-site systems.

Shutting down in August: Restaurant owners in Provincetown react to sewer failure at height of summer season

Map of Provincetown's affected area

In this Provincetown sewer system map, the brown shaded area is the vacuum system that is under an emergency alert.
In this Provincetown sewer system map, the brown shaded area is the vacuum system that is under an emergency alert.

Where are the public bathrooms in Provincetown?

All public restrooms remained closed on Friday, according to the town.

The town ordered 18 portable toilets. They were placed on Ryder Street next to the town hall.

What we know about the cause of the failure

The trouble started Aug. 9 after a power surge from a storm damaged some breakers, according to Jim Vincent, the town public works director. Hours later the vacuum system wasn’t operating and there wasn’t pressure in the system. The system was effectively waterlogged, he said.

Sewer failure coverage from Thursday: Provincetown restaurants close, residents must limit use:

Valve boxes were being repaired, but more equipment was needed, and it was expected to take days to get all the equipment needed, according to comments at the emergency Select Board and Board of Health meeting on Thursday.

Pumper trucks were going around town to empty sites, disinfecting them, and bringing that waste to the treatment plant.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Provincetown vacuum sewer stabilized Friday evening: Live