Engineers and academics say flooding rains and inadequate storm systems are threatening homes, eroding budgets and dumping sewage into Delaware Valley rivers.
“We cut down the hills, filled in the valleys, dumped all our sewage in the streams, paved over it and sent it out to the rivers,” Villanova professor Robert Traver who is a world expert on stormwater systems said. “If we get about a half inch of rain which we get about 18 times a year we have raw sewage going into the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers.”
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers every year billions of gallons of untreated sewage are dumped into Pennsylvania’s water ways. The engineers say inadequate stormwater systems cost each American household $3100 a year in damage and clean up. They predict by 2040 that will double.
Statewide the Department of Environmental Protection is in charge of fixing the stormwater system problems and providing guidelines to contractors on new construction projects. The NBC 10 Investigators found the state’s stormwater guidelines for new development haven’t been updated in a decade.
“In the case of stormwater there’s definitely been a lot of change and we recognize that,” Regional D.E.P. manager Domenic Rocco said. “It may sound like its taking long. There are technical guidance documents that are out there that haven’t been updated for decades.”
Rocco said a team is working on new recommendations.
Since 2009, Philadelphia has experienced its wettest year, wettest Summer, wettest day, and four of its wettest months according to historic weather data provided by the national weather service. Overall, there has been a 70% increase in heavy precipitation events in the Northeast U.S. in the time frame.
The American Society of Civil Engineers reported in 2014, Pennsylvania sewers are so full, they overflow more often