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Fairmount Water Works still recovering from May 1 flood

The rainstorm that flooded the Schuylkill Banks, left passengers stranded on the roof of a SEPTA bus and forced the grade-level CSX pedestrian crossing at Locust Street to close, also caused considerable damage at the Fairmount Water Works. 

Now Fairmount Water Works – the Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) watershed education center – is looking to raise $25,000 in order to get back on its feet. In the meantime, environmental educators are traveling to the schools that had scheduled field trips to the Water Works, and Water Works tours are being held entirely outdoors. 

On April 30, as heavy rain slammed the region, Fairmount Water Works checked in with the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Around 3:30 p.m., NOAA predicted the Schuylkill River would crest at 12.1 feet at 8 a.m. By 5:30 p.m., Water Works staff began moving equipment to high ground – knowing that, since the Water Works was designed as a pumping station, some water would enter the space. 

Staff worked to move equipment from the predicted flood zone until 10 p.m., when enough water had seeped into the Water Works to make conditions unsafe. 

Around 11 p.m., NOAA updated its prediction, estimating that the Schuylkill would crest at 12.8 feet at 8 a.m. But high tide occured just after 3 a.m., and by 4 a.m. the river crested at 13.9 feet.

When staff returned the next morning they found considerable damage. The water flooded some equipment and knocked down shelving that held other supplies. Electronics, fish tanks, microscopes, files and educational materials were all damaged. 

Almost immediately, the Water Works launched an online fundraising campaign to raise $25,000. These funds will replace vital resources for summer programs, including SWEP, a two-week program for girls interested in environmental careers, and Project FLOW, a five-week program that allows rising 8th and 9th grade students to explore water as artists, scientists, historians and social activists. 

To-date, the campaign has raised, $6,779

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