Oct 18, 2021

Hurricane Ida Floods Several Philadelphia Water Plants, Impacting Drinking Water Supplies

This disabled operations for nine days and affected service to approximately a million people in Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties.

storm-water

In the midst of Hurricane Ida, floodwater poured into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s, Pickering West water treatment plant from three directions.

This disabled operations for nine days and affected service to approximately a million people in Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

More than a month after the storm, the treatment plant is operating at only half capacity, and may never be fully restored. In Bridgewater, New Jersey, the operators of New Jersey American’s Raritan-Millstone Water Treatment Plant also experienced impacts after the rapid rise of Ida’s floodwaters. The Raritan-Millstone plant stayed dry and continued operating, however, due to a new $37 million flood wall three years earlier. 

That new wall was built after a hurricane 10 years ago came within one inch of flooding the plant, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. This time around, the flood was nearly a foot above the level of the old wall at The Raritan-Millstone plant, which serves about 1.5 million people in central New Jersey.

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The temporary loss of the Pickering West plant, which is Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. largest suburban Philadelphia treatment facility, caused the company to set a boil water advisory in two towns for several days. This also meant encouraging thousands of customers to reduce water consumption so that storage tanks did not empty. Several neighboring water suppliers are interconnected to Aqua’s system and also experienced Hurricane Ida-related outages, with little capacity to spare.

In Tullytown, a chemical treatment system failed at the Lower Bucks Joint Municipal Authority plant due to an influx of floodwaters from the Delaware River, according to Vijay Rajput, the authority’s managing director, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. Rajput shut down the plant rather to avoid sending out subpar water to Bristol and other surrounding communities, and customers were advised to boil water for four days until the system recovered.

The costs for recovering from Hurricane Ida and for future fortifications to water systems may impact customers in the form of higher rates.

There is discussion underway at Aqua to consider restoring Pickering West to full capacity of 40 million gallons a day or to build new capacity elsewhere at a higher elevation.

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