Wells Harbor has been closed indefinitely to swimming, kayaking and fishing after yet another break in a sewer pipe that runs through the harbor.

The 44-year-old sewer pipe owned by the Wells Sanitary District has failed five times since early July, each time prompting temporary closures of the harbor. After the pipe broke again Thursday, town officials said the harbor will be closed for swimming, kayaking and fishing until the town feels the risk of pipe failure has been eliminated.

A plan to replace the pipe, which stretches beneath the harbor and connects to a treatment plant, has been in the works for four years.

Sewage was not spilling into the harbor on Thursday because the pump connected to the pipe has been shut off. The effluent is being pumped into trucks and taken to the treatment plant.

An emergency repair that was scheduled to begin Friday instead started on Thursday. The pump will be reactivated after the repair is done.

If the pipe fails again after that, interim Town Manager Bill Giroux has asked the sanitary district not to turn the pump back on until the permanent replacement of the entire pipe is complete.


The plastic pipe was installed in the 1970s and anchored with concrete and stainless steel. New anchors were installed four years ago when the originals came loose and allowed the pipe to float. There were no further issues until earlier this year.

The pipe broke for the first time on July 8, then again July 21 and 24. It broke on Monday and again on Thursday, according to the sanitary district. At least two of those breaks happened when boats struck the pipe. The town added extra buoys and channel markers to try to keep boaters away from the pipe, which officials say is now weakened from repairs.

After each break, the sanitary district shut down its pumps and tested water in the area. None of the tests has shown elevated levels of fecal coliform that would be a danger to people swimming or fishing in the harbor. The town’s beaches, which attract thousands of visitors each summer, have not been affected by the breaks.

The sanitary district has been planning since 2018 to replace the pipe in a $1.5 million project. That work was supposed to begin in October, but the district superintendent secured permission from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start on Sept. 5.

The contractor has not yet committed to that timeline, town officials said.

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