The City of Reading has paid a $5,640 civil penalty to the Department of Environmental Protection for a Jan. 10 incident where raw sewage was discharged to the Schuylkill River, according to the DEP.The penalty is to pay back the agency for costs associated with responding to the incident, according to a DEP press release.
John Repetz, DEP spokesman, said that a 42-inch pipe that takes sewage from the 6th and Canal streets pumping station to the Reading Wastewater Treatment Plant ruptured.
About 20 million to 35 million gallons of sewage were diverted from the pipe into the river, according to a DEP press release.
"This is not something that could have been prevented," Repetz said. "It was an accident."
City of Reading Utilities Division Manager Deborah A.S. Hoag attributed the rupture to old age and said that the pipe was more than 50 years old.
Hoag said that officials are looking at ways to speed up repairs in the future.
"We're in the process of purchasing a wide variety of items for repair so we have them on site," Hoag said. "Our main goal is to minimize discharge from the pipes."
He explained that in order for the break to be repaired, the line had to be emptied.
"The City of Reading is not required to have another main line to serve as backup," Repetz said. "It's just not feasible."
Repetz said that the sewer plant workers "did the best they could with cleanup under the circumstances."
It took about two days for the pipe to be repaired after the break, Repetz said.
A piece of equipment needed for the pipe had to be ordered from Arkansas.
A six-foot section of the pipe was replaced and the pipe was back in service on Jan. 13, according to the press release.
Seven water treatment plants downstream that use the Schuylkill were forced to close water intakes and monitor the river, according to the press release.
All of the downstream plants treated the water and kept safe drinking water standards, according to the release.
Hoag said that Reading's water treatment plant is located in Ontelaunee Township near Maidencreek, and is upstream from where the discharge occurred. The plant's was unaffected.
The release stated that the civil penalty reimbursed DEP for sending employees to the site, traveling costs, analysis of river samples, equipment used during the response and the monitoring of pollutants and follow-up inspections to the site.