A sewer emergency is in place in Provincetown, Massachusetts, requiring many of the popular tourist location's restaurants to close. Some residents were asked to refrain from flushing their toilets or showering except when necessary, and public restrooms were being replaced with port-a-potties.
Any food or restaurant business that is using its vacuum sewer system must immediately close, the town said in its emergency declaration Thursday. It added that residential properties on this system must cut back on water use, "including dishwashing, laundry, showering and only flush when absolutely necessary."
Officials anticipate needing up to 48 hours to make repairs to the vacuum system and get it running as normal, Town Manager Alex Morse said in a statement.
The restaurant shut-downs are needed to "prevent a further public health emergency caused by sewer overflows," Morse said. Reducing the flow into the sewers will allow repair work to get done.
Public restrooms will be closed Thursday and Friday, and the town had 18 port-a-potties coming at 11 a.m. that were being set up on Ryder Street near Town Hall, Morse said.
The sewer emergency does not impact sewer customers that are on the gravity system, or properties with on-site septic systems. A map Morse shared shows the different systems, with the vacuum system shaded in brown, and the gravity system in green.
The town said it will provide updates throughout the next two days.
Almost every restaurant in town was closed Thursday morning, along with some stores, and business owners were beside themselves.
The sewer emergency comes after a major storm rolled through Provincetown Tuesday, bringing torrential rain showers and causing some localized flooding.
The Provincetown Police Department said that day that the central vacuum sewer station was having an electrical malfunction, due to heavy rain and thunderstorms that rolled through that afternoon. At that time, police said staff at the Wastewater Treatment Facility were working to fix the problem.
The Lobster Pot restaurant, which dealt with street flooding on Tuesday, said Thursday that it was closing because of the sewer emergency.
This is apparently not the first sewer issue Provincetown's Commercial Street area has experienced. Raw sewage bubbled from underground over the Fourth of July weekend back in 2009, the Cape Cod Times reported.