BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — One of the town officials who played a key role in the evacuation of 94 residents at the Twin Oaks Care and Rehabilitation Center on Locust Street on Sunday was Mark Carleo, the town’s public health inspector.
It was Carleo, consulting with fire Chief Kevin Farrell, who is in charge of the town’s disaster response, who made the call ordering the evacuation of the nursing home at 63 Locust St. due to a sewage backup and the inability of the nursing home to use its sanitary facilities or water.
Carleo said the sewage bubble-up was not confined to the kitchen but wound up almost throughout the first floor, in patient rooms and hallways.
Carleo said he had never seen a nursing home evacuated before and was amazed at how smoothly the effort went and how many ambulances arrived to ferry 93 residents to seven facilities in Danvers, Andover, North Andover, North Reading and Wakefield. One person was transported by a family member.
Farrell said he was impressed at how Lyons Ambulance, which is based in Danvers, was able to call for so many pieces of equipment, from communities like Beverly and Gloucester, and to staff them on a Sunday afternoon.
“It was quite a feat on their behalf,” Farrell said. LifeLine Ambulance Service was also used to transport residents.
Some of Twin Oaks’ residents were upset at having to move, Carleo said.
“Some were crying, some were scared,” Carleo said, and many wanted to know what was going on.
“The operation itself was absolutely monumental,” Carleo said, who arrived at the facility just before 1 p.m. and did not leave until 8 p.m. Farrell, too, put in an eight-hour day. Efforts to clear what was at first thought to be a blocked sewer line by the town’s sewer division, using the town’s vacuum truck and a private contractor, proved unsuccessful.
The order was made to close the facility as it got late in the day, but before it got too late.
“I tried to let it go as long as I could,” Carleo said. He waited, knowing what a task it would be to relocate so many elderly residents. Carleo said he was impressed at how Twin Oaks staff handled things, calling other facilities to make arrangements and doing their best to care for and calm residents.
Carleo said efforts to fix the sewer line under the parking lot of the facility and fix the water damage inside is going quickly. He saw all walls on the first floor stripped of wallboard 2 feet up from the floor. Fans, dehumidifiers and air scrubbers are also being used to dry things out.
“They are working pretty quickly in my estimation,” Carleo said.
Once the sewer line is repaired, Carleo said, the facility could return residents to its second and third floors. Food can be brought in from another nursing home. That could happen as soon as tomorrow, Carleo said.
The facility had issues with its grease trap in the past, but no such problems with its sewer line.
Twin Oaks Administrator Gary DiPietro could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.