Harrisburg Water Quality
The issue in Harrisburg is ongoing. Discharges of sewage from Harrisburg’s antiquated, combined sewer and stormwater system are still having a great impact on local water quality.
The levels of E. coli and fecal coliform in the River from Harrisburg’s antiquated sewer system are alarmingly high. We conduct bacterial testing each Summer along the Susquehanna River and Paxton Creek downstream of the City’s combined sewage outfalls. We collect water samples and analyze them at an independent laboratory.
From June 1 to July 30 of 2021 we found that 52 percent of water samples had levels of E. coli bacteria that would make the water unsafe for swimming, kayaking, or other water contact recreation, including just downstream from the outfall leading from the State Capitol Complex and Governor’s Residence and at City Island Park Beach. Those findings were worse than the 33 percent of samples unsafe for swimming in the summer of 2020 along the Harrisburg waterfront, or the 48 percent of samples in 2019.
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Combined sewer overflow (CSO) has been a prolonged issue in the City of Harrisburg. We focus on environmental justice as it relates to water pollution affecting our communities, especially underprivileged and underrepresented communities. The communities surrounding the City of Harrisburg are largely comprised of individuals of color, with over 75% of the population identifying as black, Hispanic, Latino or Asian. Everyone deserves the right to swim, fish, and otherwise recreate on these waters.
The City of Harrisburg’s combined sewer system has not been properly maintained in decades. The work being done currently by Capital Region Water is maintenance that should have been performed on an ongoing basis decades ago. Stormwater fees must be paid to CSO reducing projects, not deferred maintenance. Also, the state isn’t paying their fair share in stormwater fees. Demand they do and Act Now!
Capital Region Water’s plans to achieve compliance does not appropriately address CSO. The public is being charged a stormwater fee over 20 years but all of that money isn’t going to actually fix the problem. We need to see more investments being made by CRW as they have a legal obligation to resolve their violations and make respectable progress in eliminating CSOs.
In December 2021, a U.S. District Court Judge criticized the years of delays in efforts by Pennsylvania and EPA to stop chronic sewage overflows in the state capital and granted a motion by the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper to intervene in a 2015 lawsuit filed by EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage and stormwater released every year into the Susquehanna River.
Harrisburg Water Quality in the Media:
CBS 21 News: PA broadband Internet and water systems benefiting from the Infrastructure bill 11/15/2021
WITF/Transforming Health: Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper files legal action against Harrisburg, water company, citing sewage 05/07/2021
Fox 43 News : Clean water advocates file federal complaint over sewage overflows from Harrisburg into Susquehanna River 05/06/2021
CBS 21 News: Clean water advocates pursue legal action over Harrisburg sewage overflows 05/06/2021
York Daily Record: Environmental advocates sue over raw sewage Harrisburg piped into the Susquehanna River 05/06/2021
WGAL News 8: Environmental group files federal complaint over raw sewage discharged into Susquehanna River 05/06/2021
York Daily Record: Raw sewage in the Susquehanna: Pa. ‘state government is basically defecating in the river’ 02/09/2021