Over 32 million gallons of raw sewage pumped into the Schuylkill River, and not a peep from anyone here trying to protect our precious drinking water. I bet no one even asks that the city of Reading be find as the same level drillers would be fined if they caused this much pollution. Double standard?
Raw sewage into the Schuylkill River
Repair crews Tuesday found the cause of the sewage leak that shut down the city's 42-inch sewer main: a fist-sized hole in the bottom of the steel pipe.
Rather than replacing the section of pipe, the crews began fitting and welding a clamp around the pipe at the hole, a permanent repair that city officials expected to be completed by early today.
City Managing Director Carl E. Geffken said late Tuesday that workers were still at the scene making repairs and hoped to have the main fixed and back online before daybreak.
Geffken said crews still had to do some welding and slowly increase the pressure in the pipe.
Meanwhile, the city has been diverting raw sewage into the Schuylkill River, up to 12 million gallons a day,
from the Sixth and Canal streets pumping station to take pressure off the main so it can be fixed. The city will stop dumping sewage into the river as soon as the main is fixed.
And city officials still are asking customers to cut back on their sewer use.
The nearly 60-year-old main has no backup main. The city early this year hired an engineering firm to design a new pipe, and construction is expected to begin late this year at an expected cost of $15 million.
Engineers doing field work for the new pipe found the leak in the old one Monday about noon. The site is just under the West Shore Bypass where it crosses the Schuylkill River.
The break is only about 100 yards downstream from the site of a major break in January 2008, when 20 million gallons of raw sewage
had to be dumped into the river.
The city's sewage flows by gravity through many pipes to the Sixth and Canal pumping station.
From there it's pumped under pressure uphill to the sewage treatment plant, which is why the line is called a force main.
Ralph Johnson, superintendent of the sewage treatment plant, said fitting the clamp - essentially a sleeve with two halves bolted together - to the pipe is a long and tedious process.
Large sewer mains often get slightly deformed when buried for decades, and the clamp also must fit over a coupling.
Crews were working in a hole along the old main some 15 feet deep and protected from cave-ins by heavy steel shoring plates.
The leaking sewage is being pumped out of the hole so the crews can work, and extra air is being pumped into the hole - both to provide extra oxygen and to offset the odor.
Johnson said that after the 2008 break, the city created an emergency action plan to deal with problems in the future.
That plan is working, he said.
"We're a lot further ahead than we were last time," Johnson said.