An overflowing sewer pipe sent all types of waste water into the waters off Pavilion Beach Monday night, causing officials to shut the beach down to swimming.
But the beach waters passed their bacteria tests taken Tuesday, and the city reopened the beach to swimmers Wednesday, confident that it’s unlikely to close again even with heavy rains Wednesday night and later this week.
The sewer typically overflows only once or twice a year and busy tidal activity at the open front beach usually clears the contaminated water away quickly, according to Max Schenk, Gloucester’s Environmental Health Services Manager.
“The good news is that because Pavilion Beach is so open to the ocean, the water flushes it out pretty quickly,” Schenk said. “Chances are, between the time it was sampled and now, the count has gone down even a little more.”
The city must report any overflows like this to the state’s environmental department, and Schenk said a combined sewer overflow project under construction in the downtown area should prevent future issues with overflowing.
“Fortunately, it’s becoming rare to some extent because of sewer work the city is doing,” Schenk said.
Results of bacterial levels in the water tested Tuesday after the overflow were given to the city Wednesday; The water test revealed 62 colony forming units, or living organisms, in a 100 millimeter water sample. State guidelines force beach closures when more than 104 colony forming units occupy the same sized sample.
According to city officials, driving rains — which often too cause water pollution through runoff — filled a well that monitors sewer flow rates Monday night. Rather than overwhelm the water sewage treatment plant, the pipes open into the ocean, releasing excess water off the Pavilion Beach front.
The system is set up to force overflow water into the ocean rather than back up the pipes into low lying homes and city streets, according to Department of Public Works Director Mike Hale.