Harrisburg, like cities across the country, is facing the challenge of upgrading and maintaining water and sewer infrastructure that was built decades ago. About 60 percent of the city’s sewer pipes are part of a combined sewer system. In a combined system, stormwater and sewage are conveyed in the same pipe. During dry weather, sewage is transported to Capital Region Water’s Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility. During wet weather events, stormwater flows exceed capacity, causing a mixture of sewage and stormwater to overflow into the Susquehanna River or Paxton Creek.
Harrisburg is one of nearly 800 cities across the country with a combined system. In 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted a CSO Control Policy under the Clean Water Act to reduce overflows from combined sewer systems across the country. Since the adoption of this Policy, EPA has been negotiating consent decrees with individual cities to protect public health, reduce overflows, and bring utilities into compliance under the Clean Water Act. Consent decrees are legal compliance orders between utilities and federal and state governments outlining the specific measures utilities should take to protect and improve water quality.
IT ’S HARRISBURG’S TURN:
Capital Region Water entered into a partial consent decree in 2015 requiring the utility to develop a plan to reduce runoff pollution entering Paxton Creek and the Susquehanna River, undertake improved operation and controls of the system, and implement early action projects under the federal Clean Water Act and the PA Clean Streams Law.