Pre-storm cleaning kept Philly sewers clear

Kelly, Lincoln and Martin Luther King drives in Philadelphia experienced some water overflows during Hurricane Irene, officials said, but most neighborhoods had few sewer problems.

City crews cleared out storm drain openings before the hurricane dumped rain on the region, said Laura Copeland, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Water Department.

“Because we knew it was coming, we prepared for this before, during and after. The public really helped us, because we rely on their help to assist us in clearing those drains if we haven’t got to them,” Copeland said.

Copeland said she’s not aware of any neighborhood-wide problems over the weekend, just scattered reports from individual residents with standing water in a basement or cellar.

“When we went out to investigate, many of those could be internal problems where they may have a blockage in their sewer lateral, which is the pipe that carries water from the home,” she said.

Sudden rains are known to swamp Philadelphia’s old sewer system, but the city has mapped out a stormwater-management plan that could help, in the future.

“That’s a $2 billion 25-year-plan, and we are just starting to implement some of those projects. Once those projects are in place they will definitely help us capture more water before it goes into our sewer system,” Copeland said.

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