Crew working to uncover trail of sewage leak around Wilcox Park

Crew working to uncover trail of sewage leak around Wilcox Park


WESTERLY — Efforts continue to determine the source of bacteria, believed to originate from human sewage, that has been found in the stormwater drainage system in the area of Grove Avenue and Wilcox Park.

The untreated waste discharges directly into the Pawcatuck River at a spot under the east side of the bridge that connects Westerly and Pawcatuck.

Town Manager Derrik M. Kennedy said crews again inspected the drainage system in and around Wilcox Park last week. The inspection included the use of a small camera placed into the system. The camera was operated by workers from Inland Waters Pipeline Services, a Johnston-based company hired by the town to assist on the project.

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, or VHB, of Providence, an environmental engineering firm hired by the town determined the leak could be caused by damage to the municipal sewer system caused by the roots of large trees in and around the park. Under two other theories, the municipal sewer line could be directly connected to the stormwater drainage system in the park, or homes on Grove Avenue, north of the park, are mistakenly tied into a stone culvert that connects directly to a stormwater drainage line rather than being tied into the sewer system.

VHB submitted a report to the town and the state Department of Environmental Management in May. In late June, the DEM wrote to Kennedy requesting a schedule of when and how the town would address VHB’s findings. The town must reply by Friday.

During an interview last week, Kennedy acknowledged the deadline and said DEM is aware of the town’s ongoing work to determine the source of the illicit discharge.

“We are in close contact with DEM and they are working with us,” Kennedy said.

VHB recommended the town perform dye-testing to determine if flow from the sewer main is entering the stormwater system either directly or through infiltration. If the dye-testing results do not indicate the sewer main as the source of the illicit discharge, VHB offered to work with the town to develop an investigation into the homes on Grove Avenue or an alternative plan to identify the source of the discharge.

The discharge exceeds all federal Environmental Protection Agency standards except for one.

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