Sewage flowing into Schuylkill River as crews work to fix breaks in main

Update on sewer main break

READING, Pa. - Crews are back at work on a big mess, and it's the same big mess they've dealt with before.

A sewer main that broke and sent sewage into the Schuylkill River in Reading three weeks ago is broken again, and this time there's double the trouble.

Crews fixed the original leak, but two more have been discovered in the same stretch of main.

The city's Department of Public Works estimates 16 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Schuylkill River three weeks ago. Officials are more sewage to spill into the Schuylkill because of the two additional breaks.

"It will be more because it's a longer period of time," said Charlie Jones, public works director.

Because of the river's high level, crews couldn't start digging to get to the sewage main break until Tuesday. They said they plan to have one of the leaks taken care of by Wednesday.

"That's that leak," said Jones. "There's a second one not far away, and we need to tackle that immediately afterwards."

Jones said he knows what caused the latest problems.

"I think this time, clearly it was the increased flow that resulted from Lee, the tropical storm last week," said Jones.

Officials in Berks County are hoping to get some financial help from the federal government, but so far the county has not been included on the president's disaster declaration list.

"If we're not included in the federal declaration, that's a problem," said Jones, who  believes the county can appeal.  He said Reading's tab from Lee is up there.

"We have other damages, things unrelated to sanitary sewers," said Jones. "Our total was over a million dollars."

That's the money process. Jones' crews will focus on the fixing process.

"We should be all done sometime Friday," said Jones.

Jones said the city is planning to build a new sewer main in the new year.  Then the city will have a backup pipe if one breaks.

"At least each time you do it, you know a little bit more and you're better prepared the following time," said Jones. "But it's getting old." 

The people downstream in Pottstown and Philadelphia rely on the Schuylkill River for drinking water.  They are taking extra precautions to test the water.

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