PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new report by an environmental group shows raw sewage pollutes most of Philadelphia's waterways at least one-third of the year.
“It will be green and brown. You’ll see bloated rats and bloated fish. It’s disgusting,” said Ammarava Mika-El with Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philadelphia.
The area along the Schuylkill River near Bartram’s Garden is among the areas most affected by raw sewage discharge overflow. About a quarter of the public park’s programming has to be canceled each year because of river pollutants.
“We do weekly water testing, and we often find high levels of E. coli,” Mika-El said, “and just knowing that anyone can get that on their skin, get that in their mouth, just be around that type of environment — that’s the scarier thing to me.”
According to a Penn Environment Research and Policy Center study, Philadelphia’s combined sewer system releases on average 15 billion gallons of raw sewage and pollutants into the city’s waterways annually.
“Because of how often these sewage overflows happen following rain events, one out of every three days is unsafe because of this pollution in most of the city’s waterways,” said Stephanie Wein with the environmental group.
“So we are calling on the Philadelphia Water Department to move more quickly, to make sure that our waters are safe for recreation every day of the year. We want every day to be a river day, but we can’t do that without cleaning up these outflows.”
Wein added that, while the city has made efforts to address the massive flow of raw sewage, the problem still puts the public’s health at risk.
The environmental group is calling on federal and state officials to ensure that Philadelphia has access to the resources it will take to create a clean and healthy Delaware River watershed for the region.