Willard Beach is closed to the public Thursday afternoon after a sewer pipe burst near Southern Maine Community College. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Willard Beach will be closed until at least June 6 while crews repair a broken force main sewer pipe near Southern Maine Community College.

South Portland city officials say the pipe burst around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The city activated equipment to bypass the pump station, which “greatly reduces the amount of discharge from the broken pipe into the ocean,” city spokesperson Shara Dee said.

The 12-inch pipe carries untreated wastewater from the pump station through the force main to the top of a hill, where it then flows to the wastewater treatment plant, the city said.

Engineers and staff from the city’s water resource protection department are working with contractor Shaw Brothers Construction to identify the cause of the break and repair the pipe. Excavation began Friday morning.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Healthy Beaches have been notified, Dee said.

Willard Beach area residents were asked to cut back on water use Friday to reduce the flow to the pump station and broken force main pipe.

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Last fall, the city spent about $300,000 to line the sewer pipes along Willard Beach to reduce sand infiltration in the system, which can cause excessive abrasion. Water Resource Protection reports there was no deferred maintenance on the force main. The department will conduct an assessment to identify the source of the problem and any additional measures the city might need to take to prevent future breaks, Dee said.

The city intends to fix the break and reopen the beach as soon as possible and only after the water and beach sand are tested to make sure they are safe. The beach is expected to be closed through at least next Tuesday.

“We ask for the public’s patience and cooperation while work crews address the problem,” Dee said in a statement.

Signs have been posted at beach entrances. Rangers and lifeguards from South Portland Parks, Recreation and Waterfront will be at the beach to remind people it is closed for all activities.

In 2021, Willard Beach was closed temporarily while crews fixed a broken sewer main.

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