Plumbing issue cited for messy weekend situation at Westerly Town Beach | Westerly
WESTERLY – Poorly timed plumbing issues coupled with unusually warm weather drawing large beach crowds left an unpleasant outcome on Town Beach on Sunday – an overloaded portable toilet.
City officials had hoped to open the toilets in the beach pavilion for the weekend, even though the beach won’t officially open until next weekend. A plumber checked that the facilities were in good condition early last week and officials said they were working Thursday, but on Friday the toilets were unable to leave just one portable toilet in the beach parking lot.
“Like everyone else, we have plumbing problems that we have no control over,” said city manager J. Mark Rooney.
Rooney said he was confident the toilets would be operational this weekend and additional portable toilets would be available if needed. The city doesn’t usually mans the beach until the Thursday before Memorial Day, but Rooney said he plans to start a day earlier this year.
A resident, Donald Liberatore, said the situation was uncomfortable on Sunday. Liberatore, a frequent visitor to the beach, said he was there from about 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, when the temperature on the beach rose to the mid-1980s and in other parts of the state into the 1990s.
“There had to be a thousand people there. Everyone is concerned about contamination and bacteria and COVID and you have one portable toilet,” Liberatore said.
Liberatore said he spoke with a health ministry official on Sunday and was told it was a city problem. He said he saw several people defecating across the beach when the portable toilet filled up.
Rooney said the situation was exacerbated by a private parking owner who opened their parking lot to paying customers but failed to unlock their portable toilets. The owner was referred to police, said Rooney, who is expected to assess whether a municipal ordinance requiring restrooms in parking lots has been violated.
City councilor Karen Cioffi, who frequently visits the beach and keeps a close eye on the activities, said that by making all amenities available before Memorial Day weekend or after Labor Day weekend, the last weekend the beach is open under current conditions is not possible.
“We have tight budgets and have to stick very closely to these timelines,” said Cioffi.
Cioffi said she was aware of similar concerns to Liberatore.
“My response was and will be until we get to the following weekend, when it officially opens. The beach was not open and we understand it was a very hot weekend, especially yesterday, and people were flocking to the beaches, but since then it’s not technically open yet, but we don’t have any staff, ”said Cioffi.
Alderman Caswell Cooke Jr. said the situation indicates that the municipal beach season needs to be reconfigured. While the beaches were accessible on weekends, they were not staffed with lifeguards, parking attendants, or other employees.
“I was a bit stunned that we didn’t open Wuskenau and Old Town Beach yesterday. At the weekend, Wuskenau was completely packed. The city lost a lot of money by not being open. Memorial Day to Labor Day is outdated. Be ready two weeks before Memorial Day and at least two weeks after Labor Day, ”said Cooke, who works as executive director of the Misquamicut Business Association.
By slowing down when paid parking at the Town Beach lot, which is open to residents with parking tickets, and Wuskenau Beach, which is also owned by the city but open to anyone who obtains a permit, the city is effectively ‘undermined’ by private parking lot owners, Cooke said, and are losing revenue on parking lots.
Cooke said he was also concerned about a large amount of trash that he said was thrown out by beachgoers on weekends. Unlike in years past, Cooke said there were plenty of outlets available on the beaches and along Atlantic Avenue. Cooke said he hoped police could catch a few kitty litter in the act and issue quotes.
“You can’t come down here and wreck our town, it’s just not acceptable and we won’t put up with it … When people start to know we’re watching and we’re going to catch people who might stop them lying around,” Cooke said.