Power Outage Causes Untreated Waste to Be Dumped into Massachusetts River

November 06, 2017

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

Much of northern New England experienced widespread power outages due to a severe storm that passed through the region early last week.  More than 1.5 million residential and business customers lost power. 

In some areas, utilities projected power could be out for as long as a week due to flooding and downed trees and power lines.  Children looking forward to their annual candy-fest will have to wait a bit longer, as many towns formally postponed annual Halloween activities until as late as Friday to ensure safety of trick-or-treaters.

In North Andover, Massachusetts, the power loss resulted in eight million gallons of untreated waste being dumped into the Merrimack River, as a failed pump was not able to direct the waste into the treatment facility, eventually causing it to back up into the river.  According to North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor, backup power is in place for the plant itself, but not the pump.

While Maylor says there is no immediate threat to residents, such a spillage could have longer-term effects on local land and residents, which the DEP is investigating.

It serves as a reminder to all businesses to ensure all critical infrastructure is supported by properly designed power protection systems.  Whether that means the external pump at the waste treatment plant, or switches and servers in other businesses, keeping critical equipment safe is paramount to not only safety, but business continuity.

Although most businesses don’t have to deal with such potentially harmful situations, power outages are severely limiting for all businesses.  Backup power systems, of course, can keep businesses operational for short periods – or longer, with higher output systems. 

Perhaps more importantly, without power systems, the impacts of power outages can easily extend well beyond the outages themselves when equipment isn’t sufficiently protected.  The obvious case is when technology is visibly damaged by power surges – which can occur when an outage hits, and when power is restored.  But, what most business owners and IT staff don’t realize is that even surges that don’t cause servers, switches or other systems to fail are likely to weaken circuits, which will eventually fail, even without an outage.  The result is an expensive repair or replacement – taking time and money – and potentially leaving the business without access to resources supported by the damaged technology... all avoidable with the installation of a power protection system.

Edited by Erik Linask

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