Eager to avert disaster, council approves sewer plant generator

Eager to avert disaster, council approves sewer plant generator

SMITHFIELD - You might say that at the municipal sewer plant, the Number One and Number Two concerns are identical - shutdowns caused by power failures.

That's why anxiety levels spiked late in the afternoon of July 4, when a blown fuse on a utility pole suddenly interrupted electric service.

Fortunately, according to Town Engineer Kevin Cleary, power was restored within an hour and no environmental violations occurred.

That was the good news - but not so good was another result of the incident - the demise of the sewer plant's backup generator, which exists to keep matters flowing in just such an emergency.

Cleary told the Town Council Oct. 1 that the 500-horsepower generator, which had an estimated lifespan of 20 years, was 38 years old.

He said an on-site portable generator with less capacity was pressed into service, and that operators breathed a sigh of relief when power was quickly restored.

What might ensue if the plant's pumps and motors are idled for longer periods?

The only word for the resulting backups and overflows, said Cleary, is "nasty."

A rented, 500-horsepower generator has been in place since the incident, and the Town Council gave Cleary permission to proceed with the purchase of a new engine for the old generator.

He said the $60,000 price tag, and most if not all related expenses, including installation, are expected to be covered by the town's insurance carrier, which set the total project cost at $110,000.

Cleary said the replacement engine can be expected to last up to 25 years.

The sewer plant, which is undergoing a $6-million, federally mandated renovation to reduce the amount of zinc and phosphorus it emits, discharges about 1.2 million gallons of treated effluent a day into the Woonasquatucket River from its location on Esmond Hill Drive.