Sewage is finally flowing through the new pipe under Water Street and the entire road is expected to open before the Memorial Day weekend, about a year and a half after work began.

While the troubled project’s impact on the waterfront is about to come to an end, the court battle over who’s responsible for an estimated $5 million in property damage and lost business caused by construction last year is just beginning.

“This phase of the project went very well,” said William Coyle, Plymouth’s public works director. “I’ll be excited to see the road open and full access to the parking spaces in advance of the Memorial Day weekend.”

The new quarter-mile section of 30-inch pipe under Water Street started carrying sewage on May 3, bypassing the 1960s-era sewer line that runs beneath the harbor a few yards offshore. Since then, the contractor, Northern Construction, has been winding down work, removing heavy equipment, its field office, and preparing to restore the torn-up street and parking areas.

The waterfront will be free of construction and detours through the summer and fall tourist season. But next spring, another round of milling and resurfacing on Water Street is planned to address any potential settlement from the project, Coyle said.

The final phase of construction was accomplished without significant problems like those in March 2023 when groundwater flooded the work trench, shifting nearby soils and damaging the street, sidewalks, and five buildings nearby. One, home to the former Gourmet Exotic Jerky shop, was damaged beyond repair and had to be razed.

After the March debacle, the project was shut down for an engineering review that led to additional groundwater monitoring and relief wells placed within the working trench to prevent further damage. The project was then put on hold for the 2023 tourist season, resuming in January of this year.

At low tide, a manhole cover providing access to the old sewer line under the harbor is visible. The town is still evaluating whether to remove the piping or leave it in place. Credit: (Photo by Michael Cohen)

Northern Construction claimed the work stoppage and added safety measures nearly doubled the cost of the project – from $4.5 million to $9 million. The town and the contractor eventually settled on a $2 million increase in the town’s portion, pushing its total project spending to $6.5 million.

That settlement does not cover damages to buildings owned by Mamma Mia’s and the Romboldi family, including Ziggy’s Ice Cream, the adjacent seven-unit apartment building and the former jerky store.

Attorney William Burke, who represents the affected property owners, sent demand letters in February to the town, Northern Construction and Liberty Mutual, the contractor’s insurer, seeking $5 million. Since then, “it’s been radio silence,” Burke said, “which is not unusual in these cases, so we’ve gone to court.”

The remaining equipment along Water Street is for rebuilding the road’s surface. Credit: (Photo by Mark Pothier)

A suit was filed April 23 in Plymouth Superior Court against Northern Construction and Liberty Mutual.  The Town of Plymouth is not yet part of the case, because Massachusetts law gives municipalities six months to respond to a demand letter. “Typically, the town will wait the full six months, then deny our claims, and we’ll file suit. So, Plymouth still has a few weeks,” Burke said.

During the last phase of construction, Burke said, there was some additional movement at the apartment building at the corner of Water and Chilton streets, but nothing as significant as last year’s damage. The fact that the balance of the pipe installation was uneventful bodes well for his case, Burke said.

“I’m not an engineer, but it tells me that the capacity to avoid problems was there from the start, but not implemented,” Burke said. “When they changed things, it brought it under control. So, there were ways to deal with the situation that would have prevented the damage. It’s pretty straightforward, I think.”

Michael Cohen can be reached at

Share this story

We believe that journalism as a public service should be free to the community.
That’s why the support of donors like you is critical.

Thank you to our sponsors. Become a sponsor.