News Feature | March 31, 2014

Busted Water Main Unleashes 5,000,000 Gallons Of Sewage Near Philly

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

watermainbreak

A water main break in the Philadelphia area recently spilled sewage at a rate of 5,000 gallons per minute near a national park. 

"For several hours [on March 18], raw sewage gushed from the ruptured pipe into Valley Creek," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The major spill leaked more than 5,000,000 gallons of raw sewage into a nearby creek, ABC 6 reported

The sewer system near Valley Forge National Historical Park has been struggling for months. 

"This is the third break in a year and a half for the three-and-a-half mile Valley Creek trunk sewer force main that stretches from the Wilson Street pump station in Tredyffrin to the wastewater treatment center in Phoenixville," the Times Herald reported

Major water infrastructure fixes may be needed to permanently resolve the problems associated with this system. "Installed in the early 1970s, [the affected line] is a 30-inch concrete pipe with steel reinforcing bands," according to the Inquirer.

"Clearly, we need to evaluate the whole line," William Martin, manager of Tredyffrin Township, one of the towns that owns the broken pipe, said in the Inquirer

Early in the cleanup process, iron replacement sections for the broken pipe arrived.

"We're using ductile iron pipe. It's different then the pipe used in the 1970s so this will hopefully fix this section and we will do a long-term analysis of the line so far," Martin said to ABC 6. 

The rupture poses environmental risks. "Officials say the sewage leak doesn't pose a threat to humans but could be a safety concern for wildlife in the area," NBC 10 reported

Still, a bit of good news: "So far the DEP and Aqua Pennsylvania say there are no reported problems with drinking water," CBS Philly reported

As soon as this sewer main burst, "conservation officers and a club that takes care of Valley Creek knew they had work to do," CBS Philly reported. 

“They have walked approximately two miles of this stream from the pump house to where we are now and have reported to me no dead fish, which is a good thing,” Waterways Conservation Officer Bob Bonney said in the report. 

Philadelphia faces major water infrastructure challenges. But repairs, even sorely-needed ones, are sometimes too expensive. 

"There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States," according to a water infrastructure report card published last year by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

"Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA)," the report said. 

Image credit: "Water main break in the 500 block of Hampton Park BLVD on 7/13/2011.," © 2011 markn3tel, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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