"Here Comes the Rain Again . . ."
I'm dating myself, but I love the Eurythmics. Do you remember this hit?
"Here comes the rain again
Raining in my head like a tragedy
Tearing me apart . . ."
Having lived through 2018 while sitting on the board of the Central Delaware County Authority (CDCA), I can say there is a lot of truth in that. The rain we have been experiencing is historic. This could turn out to be one of the wettest years on record in our region. That is a problem for all of us if you think about the long term consequences of climate change. It is a particular and very immediate problem for those of us who worry about sanitary sewers.
Why? Because of something engineers call "I&I," or "infiltration and inflow." When it rains, a sanitary sewer that might typically experience a flow of 9 million gallons of sewage a day will see a surge that could exceed 40 million gallons a day because of water that penetrates underground pipes and manholes. The surges can overwhelm the system, leading to back-ups and environmental clean-up costs. They also mean that our sewage processing plants are going through the expensive process of treating rainwater.
The Delaware County government has an authority, the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (Delcora) that operates the sewage treatment plant located in Chester, PA. It also contracts with the City of Philadelphia for the treatment of waste flowing from the eastern part of Delco. Both Delcora and Philadelphia are facing stringent new environmental standards and are passing the costs of complying with those standards along to consumers. That translates into higher sewer fees. And increasing I&I is straining the ability of the older systems, like ours, to handle the flow on rainy days. Local sewer authorities are spending lots of money on upgrades and repairs. And towns are passing ordinances to force homeowners to inspect their laterals.
Delaware County and Delcora can't do anything about the rain. Nor can the County government wave a magic wand to seal up leaks in our system. What the County can do is educate communities, share information and look for ways to maximize I&I remediation in some of the communities that need it the most but may be least able to afford it. It is a question of leadership and focusing resources where they can do the most good. Information can lead to innovative solutions or at least community consensus on spending priorities. Check out this informative video that I found from York County authorities. You can find a much longer video on the Delcora website, https://www.delcora.org/, but it is dated and not easy to locate.
And if you look at the Delcora site, check out the financials. The total expenditures were over $63.5 million in 2018 and there is a rate increase for 2019 of 5.7% in treatment charges for 2019. Rain is very expensive.