PITA NewsLetter

Sponsored by the Plum Island Taxpayers & Associates, Inc. 2015

Bringing Plum Island TogetherNewsletter_files/PITA%20Newsletter%20August%202012.pdf

PITA offered shelter from the storms, now seeks 'justice' for sewer system woes

When blizzard after blizzard buried Plum Island during a brutal stretch of winter from the end of January through February, PITA opened our hall to Island residents and emergency responders.

The hall was open 24-7 for almost seven weeks, said PITA President Ron Barrett.

It became a refuge for dozens of residents who were unable to use their own bathrooms due to sewage backups or water bans after snow and bitter cold iced the vacuum-operated sewer system.

The hall also became a staging area for police and fire and cleaning crews and a temporary mail drop to serve people whose mailboxes were buried by the more than 8 feet of snow that fell and the huge drifts and plow banks that narrowed our streets for weeks.

Major kudos go to hall manager Frank Pierce, who worked hard day after day to make sure the bathrooms and the rest of the hall were kept clean and heat and lights stayed on.

The good news is that spring has finally arrived and the sewer system is working again — though it wasn't until mid-March that everything was back to normal.

The bad news is that what happened in 2015 can happen again. In fact, this was the second time since the system went into operation in 2006 that harsh weather froze the system. The other freeze-up, in 2009, was not nearly as severe or prolonged as this one.

Plum Island's sewer system was designed to operate by vacuum — the terrain was too flat for the typical gravity-operated system.

But the system has significant flaws. For one thing, the valves that open and close to move the sewage along — and keep it out of your house — are prone to freezing in the shallow pits they occupy.

Complicating things this winter was that the frozen valve pits were hard to get at due to all the snow. It also proved difficult to determine which ones were frozen — there are 637 of them on the island.

Now that the system is working again, PITA's job will be to work for improvements to the system and to make sure Islanders don't get stuck with the costs of making things right.

After all, we've already paid for the system, and continue to pay in the form of water and sewer fees.

It's a matter of "justice," state Senator Bruce Tarr said at a March meeting of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance. (The MRBA is an organization working on local coastal issues that PITA was instrumental in organizing.)

Or as PITA President Barrett said at the MRBA meeting: "The citizens of Plum Island spent $22 million for something that's junk."

Rest assured that PITA will continue to focus on this issue and look out for the interest of Islanders.

Past Newsletter Issues
PITA Newsletter October 2014.pdf  
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Plum Island, January 2015, Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

No Taste of Plum Island this year

The Annual Taste  of  Plum Island Fundraiser will not be held this year. 

Diane Barrett sends a big thank you to the community and especially to all the volunteers and vendors who made the event a success in the past. 

We are thinking of alternative fund raising efforts to continue serving the island and keep up PITA Hall. 

If you have a great fundraising idea, please  let us know!

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Inside This Issue

  1. -PITA offered shelter from the storms...

  2. -No Taste of Plum Island this year

  3. -Beach Alliance to protect beach property


  5. -Storm Stories! 

  6. -MONDAY NIGHT YOGA at pita hall!

  1. -Island-wide music festival coming May 30th. Check out www.plumfest.org for details! Home hosts needed.

  2. -PI beautification

     Yard Sale Sat May 23

    Pepperweed pull June 6th

    meetings 7pm PITA hall- 1st tuesday


  1. Web Site at plumislandtaxpayers.org

  2. Rent PITA Hall inexpensively as a Member

  3. Find PITA now on FaceBook -- Contribute photos, comments.

Beach Alliance pushes for cost-effective ways to protect beach property

                                                                                      (see full report)

Some have argued that we should just "let nature take its course" on barrier beaches like Plum Island, no matter  how many houses fall into the ocean.

We doubt many of the Island's 1,200 homeowners agree, and that's certainly not the way PITA sees it.

That's why PITA helped create the Merrimack River Beach Alliance in 2008. Since then the MRBA has worked with state and local officials and state and federal agencies to address the erosion issue, both on Plum Island and at Salisbury Beach.

The MRBA was instrumental in obtaining federal and state funding to dredge the mouth of the Merrimack and use the sand for beach nourishment projects at both Plum Island and Salisbury Beach in 2011 and 2013.

Money was also obtained to rebuild the South Jetty in 2012-14. That work will be completed this summer, and work will begin to restore the Salisbury-side North Jetty.

The MRBA's work also led the Massachusetts Legislature to create the Coastal Erosion Commission last year, with PITA President Ron Barrett among the appointed members.

The commission was charged with studying the history of erosion here since 1978 and recommending ways to deal with it.

The commission circulated a draft report on its findings in January.

Now the MRBA has responded with a 13-page critique of the report, urging some significant changes and a new round of hearings to gather more input from the public.

In the MRBA's view, the commission's report is heavy on the regulatory side and weak on the side of giving local officials and property owners the flexibility they need to protect their beaches and homes and providing cost-effective options to respond to damage immediately after a storm.

To quote from the MRBA's response:

"Most importantly, the draft report does not adequately address the mandate in the Commission's enabling legislation to 'focus particularly on increasing the availability of cost-effective measures to protect against coastal erosion' ...  "We also understand that all drafting of the report was controlled by regulatory agency staff and that input from task force members and the public on regulatory changes that would increase the availability of cost-effective measures to protect against coastal erosion was largely ignored."

The MRBA also faulted the Beach Erosion Commission for not doing enough to get the word out on the hearings it conducted last year. It urged the commission to conduct a new round of "open and open-minded" public hearings before a final report is issued.

The MRBA response was signed by its co-chairmen, state Senator. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Salisbury Town Moderator and PITA director Jerry Klima.

Both the MRBA and PITA will continue to follow and participate in the process on this issue, which is vital to the interests of all coastal communities in Massachusetts.