State Senate Delegation Tours Haverhill, North Andover Disaster Sites, Pledge Support

At 5 Ford St., Haverhill, from left, Haverhill Wastewater Department’s Paul Jessel, owner Artie Moses, Building Inspector Thomas Bridgewater, Community Development Director Andrew K. Herlihy and Senate President Karen E. Spilka. (WHAV News photograph.)

(Additional photographs below.)

The Massachusetts Senate president, touring flood-damaged sites Wednesday in Haverhill and North Andover, said the realities of climate change mean the state must do more to prevent disasters from occurring.

Senate President Karen E. Spilka, accompanied by Sens. Barry R. Finegold and Pavel Payano and local officials, told WHAV there’s a need for more money for dams, culverts, flood prevention and maintenance to “prevent these things from happening to start with.”

“I think we need to be putting more resources toward long-term preventative planning. Climate change is here to stay. We’ve seen these hundred-year, 10-year flooding happening more and more—certainly not hundred years or even 10 years,” Spilka said.

In Haverhill, Spilka thanked city emergency workers for their quick work in getting 22 displaced residents back into the homes after a 20-foot by 20-foot sinkhole appeared behind their 5 Ford St. home. Haverhill Wastewater Department’s Paul Jessel told the delegation the brick sewer line between Washington Street and River Street was built in 1887. Once bricks washed down the line, the soil above began washing down the hole as well. “Every time it rained, it got closer to the house,” he explained.

Artie Moses, who has owned the Ford Street property 17 years, is among the 101 residents and 12 businesses that have asked so far for disaster aid. “I was very worried about the foundation. I’m worried about the tenants—if it’s safe for them to come back, but I have ok that it’s safe so I’m happy about that they can come back to their apartments,” she said.

Haverhill Inspectional Services Director Richard MacDonald said, in this case, flooding of the home was not a concern, but rather the sinkhole potentially “compromising the structure.”

“Everyone is back in at this time. We did an inspection. There’s more to be done, but our main concern at this point was getting everyone back into the units,” he said.

The delegation also observed related damage at the bottom of the hill, where Progressive Roofing, 261 River St., took the brunt of the sewer discharge, and Joseph’s Trattoria in Ward Hill, that was inundated by four feet of water. Progressive owner John Hostetter and Joseph’s owner Deanna Faro Gaiero both noted resistance from their insurance companies. Finegold said he wants to help.

“It’s a very challenging situation and we’re all working together to try and find solutions, but this is not easy and they’re not going to be overnight solutions, but we’re going to do everything we can to help people the best we can. It’s very hard,” he said.

Payano said the legislature is working to learn more and will take any action that is required. “At the moment, we’re advocating. We’re going to see what happens with MEMA and FEMA. If we find that we need to ask for more funds and more support, then we’ll be doing that,” he said.

Spilka said it is “heartbreaking to see the devastation.”

“I think it is important for us to get a better assessment of all of the damage for businesses, infrastructure, residences, working with the administration and looking into the different options—whether it be FEMA, MEMA or other options—and learn from these lessons.”

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, in a statement, said he looks forward to legislator’s support as “we continue lobbying the state and federal government as well as the governor’s office for financial assistance for those most impacted by the storm and flooding.”

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester also took part in the North Andover tour and staff from U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey’s office toured sites in both communities.

Comments are closed.