Heavy rains send sewer water into local rivers

    The severe thunderstorms that turned Tuesday’s morning rush hour into a commuter nightmare can also end up polluting area rivers and streams. But the Philadelphia Water Department is embarking on a billion-dollar, 20 year project to re-design the city’s storm water system.

    The severe thunderstorms that turned Tuesday’s morning rush hour into a commuter nightmare can also end up polluting area rivers and streams. The problem flows out of a sewer system that in some places is more than 100 years old. But the Philadelphia Water Department is embarking on a billion-dollar, 20 year project to re-design the city’s storm water system to meet new E-P-A regulations and make the city more green. A pilot project is underway in Northern Liberties neighborhood.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090609spsewer.mp3]

    The storm drain at Liberty Lands park at Third and Wildey streets has been disconnected. In its place is a new inlet, that collects stormwater and sends it into a rain garden and cistern that store the water for later use in the park.

    Joy Lawrence is with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a partner in the project.

    Lawrence: Once upon a time, we thought about storm water as something we wanted to get rid of as quickly as possible. So engineering was designed to pick it up get it in a big pipe and throw it in the river as quickly as possible.

    The Water Department is working on new ways to divert stormwater so the over-taxed sewage system won’t spill untreated waste water into rivers and streams. The Liberty Lands project is viewed as a prototype for future stormwater management projects across the city.

    The first public meeting on the plan is Wednesday, June 10 at 6:00 p.m. in Northern Liberties.

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