Quite literally. Half a million gallons of raw sewage overflowed into Merry Place in Havertown a month so ago and stank for days. Good place to send your kids to play. I wonder if the fishermen know what’s added to Darby Creek to increase the flow. Perhaps they like their fish ready wrapped?
Hardly a new problem as some of the rotting sewage pipes were laid in the mid 1930s and the system reached capacity decades ago. I do wonder what strings were pulled to allow the construction of all the new houses and now the 292 planned new houses in the Haverford Reserve development on the grounds of the old Haverford State Hospital project.
At a meeting on October 1, 2008, the Radnor-Haverford-Marple Sewer Authority (RHM) told us that raw sewage overflowed into Darby Creek “a couple of times a year.” Their original brilliant proposal was to place an enormous 3 million gallon surge tank, about the size of four typical houses, right at the entrance to Merry Place, a beautiful small park for handicapped children.
The next meeting on October 7, 2009 showed just how little thought had gone into this in a year: the only change was RHM proposing to site the tank by the baseball diamond a hundred yards away. We were invited to view what was claimed to be a similar installation a couple of hours drive away, to prove it wouldn’t smell, but later we heard it held treated water, not raw sewage. Details, details...
It wouldn’t be so bad if a surge tank would solve the problem. One of RHM’s employees mentioned in the meeting that the flow completely stopped at the exit during periods of heavy rain, as the downstream system reached capacity. It should then be easy to work out the required capacity of the surge tank if one could only find out what the maximum flow rate was.
RHM claimed the flow rate was a small fraction of what Springfield’s engineer Susan Guissinger claimed was measured by new flow meters installed where our flow entered their system. Hardly a surprise as what RHM contracted and agreed to pay for was a fraction of this. As a result the two parties have not been talking to each other for years.
As all the parties agree that what is really needed is a complete overhaul of the old, rotting pipes and as the flow rates are so wildly different depending on who you ask, I proposed several times that the first step was to get a proper, unbiased technical study of the whole system, to show the options and costs to fix it for the future. No one has done that nor seems interested in doing so.
The basic argument seems to be that it would take too long to do the job properly and we need a solution now. It will always be too late to do the job properly. So of course we should apply expensive Band-Aid solutions and not look too closely at whether they will actually work. The whole idea is to get the right pieces of paper to allow more construction and avoid fines.
The second problem is that overhauling the whole system involves twelve municipalities, some of which have completed development and will not agree to spend any money on it. I even asked the president of the Delaware County Council for help in this but he said he didn’t have the authority to do it. The only remaining hope is to have the EPA mandate it. Presumably there is “economic stimulation” money floating around, if only we had a plan to use it.
If Springfield’s number of 13 - 21 million gallons/wet day is correct (compared with RHM’s contracted number of 5.79 mil gallons/day, according to Ms. Guissinger) and if, as RHM have stated, the exit flow stops in these conditions, the 3 million gallon surge tank should be good for three hours of flow. It never rains longer than that, right? Another question is why so much surface water is allowed to enter the system after decades of “fixing” this problem.
Come to the Haverford Zoning Board hearing on April 29th at 7:45 pm. to see democracy at work as RHM gets closer to permission to build this monument to greed and stupidity. It’s only going to cost a few million dollars and stink out the neighborhood.