Jul 26, 2010

Muddy Waters

It's been a tough five years for the Little Lehigh under Donny Cunningham. First, he has remained silent on the drilling of wells at the stream's headwater, to accommodate the bottling industry he shepherded to the valley. Now, The Morning Call has publicized the fact that the Lehigh County Authority (water and sewage) has an on going spillage of sewage into the waterway. Recently, when I criticized Cunningham's Plan to demolish the historic stone arch Reading Road Bridge, his blogosphere watchdog, Bernie O'Hare, defended the plan by quoting the "Bridge Doctor", Glenn Solt. Solt is Cunningham's public works director. Solt said that stone arch bridges look pretty, but they're filled with "crap." The Morning Call article quotes Richard Young, Pawlowski's Public Works Director. Young states that the Allentown Sewer Plant, which handles the sewage from the Lehigh County Authority, only intentionally dumps raw sewage downstream from the water plant. He fails to mention that the manhole covers, which overflow during storms, are upstream or just before our water plant. The above photo shows such overflow just west of Schreibers Bridge, which is only a few blocks before the water plant intake pipe. I hope Cunningham and Solt don't see this post. Schreibers Bridge is also a historic stone arch bridge. Built in 1828, it was rehabilitated in 1920 and 1998. Maybe Cunningham should concentrate on what's flowing under the bridges.

photo from The Morning Call
related post on Kleiner's Remember


Anonymous said...

MM -

Do you know if part of the problem is that the city - in dire need of cash due to fiscal mismanagement - has oversold its sewage capacity?

I realize that the plant at Kline's Island has capacity left, but I think the problem is in the lines feeding into the sewer plant. Those lines can only handle so much, and there has to be a reserve for stormwater. Otherwise, you get what you see in the picture above.

I think that about 3 years ago Janet Kiem and former councilman Ben Howells were trying to get an answer on the possible overselling from the Pawlowski administration, but were getting the runaround from both Pawlowski and Council.

Anonymous said...

The problem is a result of storm water directed into the sewer lines, almost entirely in the LCA coverage area. There are instances where this happens in the city but most do not feed into the Little Lehigh sewer lines.

Storm water should go directly into the natural watershed and retention ponds where possible.

Anonymous said...

"He fails to mention that the manhole covers, which overflow during storms, are upstream or just before our water plant."

Manhole covers in Lehigh Parkway at times have also overflowed onto the grass, road and bridle path. Stench is horrific.

Anonymous said...

The sewer treatment capacity issue is somewhat different from the wet-weather overflow issue, although they are related.

Allentown has not over-sold its treatment capacity, but has no more new capacity to sell.

Pipeline capacity, which is a different issue altogether, is adequate for normal flows but is overwhelmed by leakage into the system during rain events. This was never intended to be a "stormwater" system, but major rehab is required to keep the rainwater out. All the municipalities connected to the Lehigh County Authority system have been working on a program to address this, which was not covered in the article. Homeowners are going to have to get involved to disconnect sump pumps and floor drains. Municipalities will have to repair manholes, leaking sewer lines, and much more. Allentown will probably have to construct huge holding tanks to deal with all the rainwater that gets into the system. None of the municipalities are ducking the issue, but it will take time and lots of money to fix the problems.

Unfortunately, in the past, a "bypass" of Kline's Island due to wet-weather overflows was considered to be the design standard that EPA sanctioned. Now it's no longer acceptable so we all need to work together to do something about it.

Regarding treatment capacity issues at Kline's Island, a steering committee is looking at this now. If interested in learning more, visit lvwaterforum.net.

gary ledebur said...

Thanks MM for trying to save the stone bridges. I remember visiting Europe with my beautiful ex whereby she always remarked how the stone bridges made by the Romans 2000 plus years ago were still standing.