FARMINGDALE — A problematic pump station on Northern Avenue will receive a second new pump after the selectboard approved a $9,949 expenditure on Wednesday.

Resident Bruce Ellis told the Kennebec Journal in May that he observed sewage overflowing from the station in April, which he said could be an environmental concern.

Selectman Andy Vellani favored buying a new pump rather than paying the $642 bill for cleaning a pump when it shuts down. He said he has seen the charge frequently on sewer warrants lately. Town Clerk Rose Webster said the Northern Avenue pump station is the most frequently used station in the town.

The town’s sewer contractor Tony Barry said he has been to the pump station “two or three times in the last couple of weeks” to clean out the pumps after one goes down. He said the pumps were nearing the end of their lifespan. The first pump was replaced recently with a pump the town had on hand and the second will be replaced with a “vortex pump.”

Engineer Tim Sawtelle, who works for Dirigo Engineering and recommended the vortex pump to town staff, said it moves water less efficiently but has “less tendency for clogging.” He said the town is having an “extreme problem with rags and other stuff in the sewer.” At Wednesday’s meeting, Webster said there were reportedly puppy training pads, cat litter and flushable wipes clogging the pumps.

Sawtelle said Farmingdale’s problem is “not an uncommon” one. He said the “so-called” flushable wipes should not be flushed because it’s hard for the pumps to cut them up. He said they become stringy, wrap themselves around the pump and increase the frequency of clogs.

Webster said flushable wipes are not allowed to be flushed per the town’s ordinance. Webster said 712 letters have been sent to Farmingdale residents to remind them of the town’s policy regarding flushable wipes.

Ellis told the Kennebec Journal in May that the pump station was overflowing on April 20. He said he saw a red light on the station at 1:30 p.m., then observed sewage flowing from 7:30 p.m. to noon on April 21.

“The emergency light was on for a day without anybody doing anything about it,” Ellis told the Kennebec Journal. “(Sewage) is going across someone’s lawn and directly into a stream that goes under Russell Street and onto Sheldon Street and back down to Route 201 and into the (Kennebec River).”

Assistant Town Clerk and Sewer Secretary Natalie Jackson said she was not aware of any overflowing at the pump station. Barry said he heard it had overflowed “at some point,” but he didn’t know when. Barry said he had never received a complaint about sewage flowing onto a resident’s lawn.

“I can’t say what would have caused it,” he said. “It would be that both (pumps) got clogged.”

Jim Crowley, who works in Wastewater Compliance for the DEP, said his department has not received a report of any incident in Farmingdale. He said damage from sewage entering the environment is “variable.”

“It will depend on the details of the situation: How much, how long, how populated (the area is),” Crowley said. “Until I get a look or reconstruct the situation from testimony, I can’t tell you what the impact.

“It’s probably going to have a relatively minimal impact on the ecosystem, but it leaves the potential for pathogens to be there for human exposure,” he added. “If this happened back in April, there’s nothing we can do to mitigate whatever occurred.”

Crowley said Friday he would be checking in with town officials and traveling to Farmingdale to gather information on the reported overflow. He said failure to notify of an overflow could result in punitive action from the department.

Webster said alarms go to town office workers, the town’s plumbing inspector Julian Beale and Dirigo Engineering if a pump goes down. She said the town is working on purchasing software to get those alerts sent to town employee’s phones.

The town’s selectboard also awarded two roadwork projects on Wednesday. Barry’s company, Excalibur, was awarded a ditch repair job on the Outlet Road based on a $5,600 bid and Sidney-based CCC Construction was awarded a catch basin repair project on Park Street based on a $49,293 bid.


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