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In Holyoke, Broken Sewer Sends Unknown Amount Of Sewage Into Connecticut River

Warning signs like this are posted in towns and cities along the Connecticut River where combined sewer overflows may discharge.
Jill Kaufman
/
NEPR
Warning signs like this are posted in towns and cities along the Connecticut River where combined sewer overflows may discharge.

A ruptured sewage pipe in Holyoke, Massachusetts, spilled unknown amounts of raw sewage into the Connecticut River this week. The break happened underground Monday, on a steep embankment north of the Holyoke Dam.

It appears the earth that held the sewer had eroded and the lack of support caused the break, according to Mike Williams of Suez North America, which manages sewer pipes for the city. Williams said the pipe, which is more than 50 years old, was just checked Saturday, down at the edge of Connecticut River.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requires these kinds of sewer pipes be checked at least three times a week, so nothing was neglected, Williams said. But the line rupture happened 600 feet away from the pipe's output.

"You do your annual inspections, your quarterly inspections and you look to observe any types of failure," Williams said. "But there's no magic crystal ball to tell you, 'Yes,  this has failed.'"

In an "overabundance of caution," the company said residents may want to avoid any activities that involve contact with the water.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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