HAMPTON — Hampton town officials, public works staff and representatives of utility and engineering firms gathered Thursday morning to unveil the town’s new wastewater pump station, which replaces an aging facility just blocks from the beach that had been called a potential catastrophe for the Seacoast tourism hotspot.
The old pump station on Church Street was originally built in 1935. Hampton Public Works Director Keith Noyes said Thursday that the facility serving the Hampton Beach area had long been “on the verge of breaking down,” with pumps that constantly clogged and required workers to crawl into tight spaces to clean.
“If that station had gone down, it could have really caused an economic disaster for the beach community…. not to mention an ecological disaster,” Noyes said. “We would have literally had to close the beach.”
Noyes said Hampton voters approved a low-interest bond for the new, $2.4 million pump station in a March 2012 ballot measure. Hampton Town Manager Fred Welch said the cost of the station will affect customers’ property tax bills — Hampton has no direct sewer use fee — but said the impact will be miniscule.
Welch said the town recently ended a bond for its police station and has two fire station bonds, amid a decrease in state funding for public works projects and other services.
“What really increased tax bills this year is pass-down costs from the state,” Welch said.
Hampton’s total population is about 15,000, according to census data. Welch said the population of the beach area, which the new station will serve, swells to about 200,000 in the summer months.
Dave Romilly, project engineer for Wright-Pierce, said the new station can immediately handle 2,000 gallons of wastewater per minute, with room to expand to 3,000 gallons a minute. Mike Dube, Hampton’s wastewater operations manager, said the old facility could handle about 1,200 gallons a minute — on a good day.
“But we couldn’t really get that out of those pumps,” Dube said. “We used to be cleaning out pumps monthly.”
Dube grinned while making stooping and crawling gestures as he described the motions needed to access the old pumps for cleaning. The new facility enables pumps to be extracted from underground rooms with cables that pull them up through ground-level hatches, into a spacious cleaning area.
“They can remove pumps with the press of a button now,” Romilly said.
Tim Noonis, senior business development manager for utility firm Unitil Corp., presented Hampton officials with a check for $50,562 at Thursday’s event, for energy rebates earned through the station’s design.
Painters and landscapers were everywhere along Hampton Beach Thursday morning, as seasonal businesses made final preparations to open. As the community gears up for summer, Dube said he could breathe easier at night without worrying about an aging, outdated pump station.
“We shouldn’t have any issues with this for years to come,” Dube said.