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Great Barrington DPW halts projects, reminds residents not to flush wipes

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Even under normal conditions, Department of Public Works Director Sean VanDeusen worries about wipes clogging the town's sewer pumps. He frets over fixing the town's aging bridges, roads and culverts.

Now, the new coronavirus pandemic is reshuffling priorities.

"Obviously, keeping the wastewater treatment plant running — that's important," he said. "We're working on a contingency plan, should somebody become ill."

VanDeusen said the department also is giving town buildings a double dose of cleaning and sanitizing, while still removing garbage around town and being ready for a collapsing culvert or downed tree.

With business as usual coming to a screeching halt across the U.S., so have projects that rural towns in the Berkshires had in flow.

"I can't go out for bid or have pre-construction meetings or have a construction site right now," VanDeusen said. "Nothing is moving forward."

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These include repairs to bridges, roads, culverts, town buildings and the repaving of the Triplex parking lot.

He said all he can do as the crisis unfolds is work on designs for future projects.

And he's still thinking about wipes, and hoping the increase in use won't cause problems. While the "$1 million screen" the town installed several years ago keeps wipes from reaching the plant, VanDeusen said the town's four sewer stations require a daily clean out to keep clusters of wipes from destroying the pumps.

He and his staff haven't yet seen more wipes in the sewers yet. But he suspects they'll start seeing more. Yet again, VanDeusen asks that people not flush so-called "flushable wipes" or paper towels down the toilet.

"It causes blockages and can cause the pump stations to break down," he said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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