As you surely know, the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District (GLSD) suffered an extremely unusual overflow event on October 30, 2017. This event, leading to the discharge of a combination of storm water and sewerage into the Merrimack River, was a direct result of our loss of electric power in the wake of the tropical strength storm occurring on that same day. I want to assure you that we at the District did not take the events of this storm lightly, we share your frustration, and we express our regret and apologize to anyone who may have been impacted in any way.
I hope the following information helps in your understanding of what steps we took ahead, during and following the storm to bring the Pumping Station and Treatment Plant back to full operation as expeditiously as possible and minimize damage and inconvenience due to the power outage.
In anticipation of the severity of this storm event, as is our practice, GLSD brought in additional operations staff during the overnight shift to assist. During the storm, in order to protect against the prospect of a lengthy power outage, we procured a rental generator for the Riverside Pump Station to restore operations. Ultimately, delivery of that unit was stalled due to major delays on Route 495 caused by a hazardous chemical fire on a tractor trailer. We were also making arrangements for a second generator to be utilized at the Treatment Plant.
GLSD stayed in constant communication with National Grid regarding its estimated time for power restoration. Within 13 hours of the loss of our primary source of power through National Grid, electricity was restored allowing us to take the necessary steps to resume operations. All facilities have maintained operation since.
I want to assure you that no communities downstream have an intake facility for drinking water which means, therefore, that there could be no impact to any drinking water due to this event.
With respect to notifications, we focused first on downstream residents who are most likely to be affected by an overflow event. The two dozen recipients we notify include public health departments, state and federal agencies, shellfish wardens and harbormasters. We also notify officials in the communities of Amesbury, Groveland, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Merrimac, West Newbury, and Haverhill. Finally, during this event numerous calls were placed by GLSD to its regulators, keeping them informed about the steps that we were taking to address the situation.
Now, as we look ahead, I am pleased to inform you that in order to improve on GLSD’s back-up power capabilities, the Board of Commissioners embarked on a resiliency project that will allow the District to create its own electricity to power the Treatment Plant. Gas produced on site will power this facility — effectively eliminating the need for power from the grid. This project will be operational in the spring of 2018. In addition, we will continue to investigate other ways to harden the resiliency of the GLSD.
In closing, this recent event was certainly upsetting – to you, our neighbors, and indeed to all of us at the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District who understand the magnitude of our responsibility to protect your health and the ecosystem of the Merrimack River. You have our promise that we will continue to work to improve our systems until we are satisfied that we are fully prepared to weather such violent storms.
Cheri Cousens, P.E. Executive Director