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Norwalk Digs Out After Sandy, Sewage Plant Back In Operation

A boat washed ashore on Elizabeth Street in Norwalk early Tuesday morning during Hurricane Sandy.
A boat washed ashore on Elizabeth Street in Norwalk early Tuesday morning during Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Wastewater Treatment Plant is back in full operation Tuesday after it was temporarily shut down Monday night during the height of Hurricane Sandy.

Public Works Director Harold Alvord said the plant was shut down for two hours from about 10:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. as the city grappled with high tides that threatened to overwhelm the system.

But thanks to a wind shift, earlier tides that had not receded began to recede, which took the strain off of the plant’s pumping equipment.

“Wastewater was backed up into holding tanks, but only for two hours,” Alvord said during a press conference Tuesday morning at Norwalk Police headquarters. “So when we got pumps working again, they could handle it.” No raw sewage was released into Long Island Sound, Alvord added, and city water is safe to drink. Residents with well water may want to check their wells to ensure their safety.

All but two of the city’s pumping stations are fully operational. The Bell Island pumping station is currently under water and not functioning, he said, but crews cannot yet reach it to determine its status. Additionally, the pumping station on Sammis Street is also not functioning.

“Thanks to the time of night we shut it down, a lot fewer people were using their toilets and water,” Alvord said. “So there was not too much strain on the system.”

While the storm did not bring down the treatment plant for very long, Norwalk fire personnel had to rescue about 40 people from low-lying areas using boats and the city’s high-water rescue vehicle during the storm. Firefighters also responded to several carbon monoxide complaints from people using generators indoors.

Several boats washed ashore near Water Street, including one that was grounded on Elizabeth Street more than a block from the Norwalk River. Also, a woman in a partially submerged car on Selleck Street had to be rescued from her vehicle, according to Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy.

Hurricane Sandy left 18,000 households without power in Norwalk, according to Mayor Richard Moccia, or about 60 percent of the city. Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said the department responded to more than 500 calls during the storm, most of which were reports of downed trees and wires.

“There were no serious injuries reported during the storm,” Kulhawik said, adding that no Norwalk police officers reported out sick during the storm.

City Hall on East Avenue is without power and will be closed Tuesday, and there will be no transit bus service. Additionally, Norwalk schools are closed Tuesday and will be closed again on Wednesday.

At the height of the storm, 250 people were at the temporary shelter at Brien McMahon High School, said Michele DeLuca, director of the Department of Emergency Management. She added the city will keep the shelter open Tuesday night and serve hot meals for lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Yankee Gas temporarily shut off service to about 275 homes in South Norwalk south and east of Woodward Avenue and Baxter Drive Tuesday due to flooding concerns, the utility announced in a statement.

“We survived Sandy, but it’s going to take a while to fully recover,” Moccia said, thanking the residents and city personnel for helping to keep the storm’s effects at a minimum. “I know people get antsy when they’re without power for a while, so please be patient.”

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