PROVINCETOWN – Provincetown has declared a sewer emergency, ordering some restaurants to close during the busy tourist season and residents to reduce their water use as crews work to repair a problem that’s been ongoing for days.
The emergency impacts properties on the vacuum sewer system – it doesn’t apply to customers on the gravity system or to places with on-site septic systems. It could take up to 48 hours to fix the system, the town said.
The affected areas are on Commercial Street from Snow Street to Point Street, and Bradford Street between Conwell Street and Prince Street. Click here for a list of affected properties.
“Any restaurant or food service business in this service area will need to cease operations immediately,” the town said in an alert. “This is necessary to prevent a further public health emergency caused by sewer overflows, and we need to drastically reduce flow to allow the critical repair work in order to get the town back to full capacity.”
Affected residents are being told they “must reduce water use, including dishwashing, laundry, showering, and only flush when absolutely necessary.”
Public restrooms will be closed Thursday and Friday. The town has ordered 18 portable toilets, which will be located on Ryder Street next to town hall.
A line could be seen forming next to one portable toilet at 11 a.m. The screech of septic trucks filled an unusually quiet Commercial Street Thursday night.
“Yesterday was a mob scene,” one man said. “There were thousands of people walking up and down this street. Today it’s so eerily quiet.”
Town Manager Alex Morse previously said that thunderstorms on Tuesday caused electrical issues at the central vacuum station, which runs the downtown sewer system.
The Boatslip Resort on Commercial Street said its popular Tea Dance was suspended until further notice as a result of the sewer emergency.
Next week is the Carnival celebration, which attracts tens of thousands to Provincetown.
“I know it’s a hard ask and a difficult time of the year, but if we can limit it to up to two days and ahead of Carnival, that’s a better outcome letting these guys get in the streets and make these repairs than having to shut down for the next week,” the Provincetown Health Department’s Lezli Rowell said.
Dark dining rooms and closed kitchens are a nightmare for restaurant owners counting on a classic Cape summer.
“For two years, we had to deal with the COVID thing,” said Steven Schnitzer who owns JDs. He’s worried about two dozen employees and the fresh seafood he wants to sell.
“You have basically 10 Saturdays in the summer which are your best days,” Schnitzer said. “You lose a Saturday, you’re really, really, in trouble.”
Morse shared an encouraging update on the situation Thursday afternoon.
“We continue to make progress and we are moving in the right direction,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who is cooperating with the restrictions announced this morning – it is making a difference and is allowing our crews to do the necessary work. This needs to continue.”
Still, business owners and restaurant owners were frustrated considering how this time of year is so vital to surviving.
“It’s a nuisance, it’s a disappointment. It’s a disappointment here in P-Town because it’s a tourism place to come,” said Storm Scooters owner Karen Peloquin.
Jamie Lewis of Governor Bradford’s Restaurant echoed Peloquin’s about how the issue hurts her business.
“I don’t think it’s good for anyone. This is the time of year to survive year-round. So I think it’s been rough,” Lewis said. “It’s frustrating, but again it’s completely out of our control.”
Some tourists though, like Jeff Brockette, were able to make light of this situation.
“It’s very humorous for us,” said Brockette, who is visiting from Texas. “We’re having a good time with this.”