RICHMOND — A septic company tried to repair a broken pumping system Thursday as the minutes ticked down to the deadline for residents to vacate Meadowbrook Trailer Park.

But residents did not get the 11th hour reprieve they’d hoped for and were forced to leave their homes, where they have been without water since Tuesday morning, when it was shut off to prevent sewage that had overflowed because of the broken pump from entering the town’s water supply through leaky pipes. Residents had until 5 p.m. to temporarily vacate their homes until the problem is rectified.

Many of the residents went to a hotel in Augusta that had agreed to give them a discounted rate for one night. They plan to send the bill to John Wilson, the former on-site property manager and current resident who’s been working to get the problem fixed since the park’s owner, Russell Edwards Jr., said he can’t afford the repairs.

“I’m thankful that John asked for help, because we had no other place to go,” resident Harley Clifford said. “I’m hoping, like John said, that they can have an excavator come in tomorrow and fix the pipe so we can have our water turned back on and live a normal life again.”

So much water leaks from pipes in the trailer park that it accounts for 10 percent of the total usage in the Richmond Utilities District. According to Superintendent Frank Talbot, water use dropped by about 8,000 gallons after the park’s water was shut off Tuesday.

Wilson believes that the main leak is outside the trailer that Clifford shares with her boyfriend, John Tuttle, and their 3-year-old son. Wilson was not able to get an excavator to dig in the area Thursday, so Tuttle and two other men did what they could with shovels before having to pack up and vacate the park.

No authorities arrived to enforce the order to vacate.

Septic system contractors arrived shortly before 5 p.m. to pump out the septic tank, install a new pump and run a camera through a pipe to check for leaks.

The private pumping station is supposed to send sewage through about 250 feet of pipe into the utility district’s system, but because of the broken pump the sewage has been overflowing around the station. It has contaminated Mill Brook with E. coli, according to Department of Environmental Protection testing, and Richmond officials were worried it could also contaminate the town’s water supply.

Code Enforcement Officer James Valley, also the plumbing inspector and local health officer, said the pumping station must be fixed and up to code, and Talbot will need to run a pressure test to make sure there are no more substantial leaks in the park. Only then will the water be restored and residents allowed to move back in.

If Wilson and the other residents don’t manage to get that done Friday, they’ll have to wait until Monday.

Richmond’s town office is closed on Fridays, and Valley will not be working. He said if Talbot, who is working Friday, believes the problems have been fixed and that a full inspection can be done, he may be able to do his inspection Friday. Valley said neither he nor Talbot will be available Saturday or Sunday.

“I’m not trying to be the bad guy here, but it’s kind of the thing where if I do it for one person, I’d have to do it for everyone,” Valley said.

As she packed to leave, resident Norma Duperre said she planned to return Friday to feed her cats, and she hopes she’ll be able to move back in as well. She said until she found out about the hotel, she was planning to stay in her home.

“I was not going to leave,” she said. “I told my daughter I’m going to stand my ground because it’s not my fault.” 

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

[email protected]m

Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan