Richmond officials signed off on sewer and water fixes at Meadowbrook Trailer Park Friday evening, allowing residents to return home just more than 24 hours after their eviction.
Without potable water or a functioning sewer system, the trailer park had been evacuated on Thursday for health and safety reasons.
Friday was a scramble as a group of residents led by former park manager John Wilson tried to secure the equipment they needed to repair a pump station that was overflowing with raw sewage and to stop leaks in water mains.
They finished the work just in time for town officials to inspect the systems and agree to restore water service, which was shut off Tuesday because of the possibility that the sewage would contaminate Richmond’s water supply.
“Sewer’s been fixed, water’s been fixed,” Wilson said at about 6 p.m. Friday. “Tenants are moving back into their homes with full services now.”
Richmond Utilities District Superintendent Frank Talbot stayed late on Friday, and Code Enforcement Officer and Plumbing Inspector James Valley came on his day off to do inspections. If the repairs had taken much longer, it’s possible they would not have been inspected until offices opened again on Monday morning.
Nine of the trailers at the park are occupied, and some of the residents would have been homeless this weekend if they had not been able to move back in on Friday.
Many said they had nowhere to go until Wilson found space for them at an Augusta hotel on Thursday night. Wilson said Friday that they weren’t able to stay at the hotel any longer because it was booked for the Kora Shriners Circus this weekend.
A new sewage pump was installed Friday, its connection to the utility district’s wastewater system checked and alarms set up to go off in case the pump fails. Because of the broken pump, sewage had been overflowing the station and contaminating nearby Mill Brook with E. coli.
So much water was leaking from pipes in the trailer park that it accounted for 10 percent of the total water usage in the utility district, Talbot said. Beyond the threat of contamination, he said the leaks could cause other problems, like inadequate water supply to fight fires.
The two biggest problems appeared to be a broken fitting in one supply line and a toilet in a vacant trailer that was continuously flushing, Talbot said. Both were fixed on Friday, and all the lines were flushed.
Talbot said he would return to check the meter on Monday morning to see what the park’s water consumption is this weekend.
The water usage will be billed to the tenants, who agreed to take responsibility to prevent the water from being shut off due to nonpayment. Park owner Russell Edwards Jr. has run a balance of thousands of dollars with the utilities district for years, according to Talbot, and owes the district about $20,000.
Wilson said former and current tenants, working together as the Richmond Tenants Association, may file suit against Edwards next week for his failure to fix the problems and to recover money that the tenants spent on the repairs.
The Manufactured Housing Board has scheduled a hearing for May 7 in Gardiner to determine whether to take disciplinary action against Edwards’ company for failing to correct the health and safety violations presented by the malfunctioning sewage station or to provide a source of potable water for tenants after their water service was disconnected.
Edwards could be required to pay a substantial fine or lose his license to operate the trailer park, according to documents from the housing board.
Edwards has said he could not afford to fix the problems at the trailer park because Wilson has been withholding the tenants’ rent payments, an allegation that Wilson denies.