The city of Reading is dumping its raw sewage into the Schuylkill River, due to a break in its sewer main, according to the Reading Eagle.
The 42-inch main ruptured on Monday. It happened 50-feet from the Schuylkill on the west bank under the Route 422 overpass near Brentwood Drive.
Officials say the break could have been caused by last week’s earthquake and Hurricane Irene, though this is not confirmed.
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The Earthquake may have weakened a portion of the main. Rain from Irene, which infiltrated the old sewer lines, may have raised the volume and pressure inside the main.
To help crews fix the main, Reading’s Sixth and Canal streets station diverted sewage straight to the Schuylkill River. The station normally pumps 12 million gallons a day through the main to a sewage treatment plant on Fritz’s Island, according to the Reading Eagle.
The Eagle reports that Brubacher Excavating Inc., which the city hired to fix the main, is digging a hole along and beneath the sewer main and collecting the leaked sewage. They are also pumping the sewage through an installed bypass pipe directly to the sewage treatment plant in order to expose the main and determine the nature of the break and how to fix it.
Reading’s Managing Director Carl E. Geffken told the Eagle that the crews will work nonstop until the job is done. For now, Reading's Mayor Tom McMahon asked businesses and residents to cut back on using the sewer system in order to lessen the amount of sewage dumped into the river, according to the Reading Eagle.
The sewer main ruptured once before back in January of 2008. It took 2 ½ days for crews to stop the leak. By the time they were finished, 20 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Schuylkill. The Eagle reports that this time repairs are expected to take half as long however.
Reading notified both Pottstown and Philadelphia which both draw water from the Schuylkill. They also notified state and federal environmental agencies.
Officials are unsure if a fine will be assessed. During the main break in 2008, the State Department of Environmental Protection levied a $5600 fine, which covered its monitoring costs.