EPA

Latest Philadelphia Water Quality Data Out Now

See our latest water quality data at phila.gov/water or request a free copy at 215 685 6300.
Our 2016 water quality data is out. Read the report by clicking the image above or request free copies at 215.685.6300 or waterinfo@phila.gov

Philadelphia residents have 24/7 access to top-quality water, a fact that they check themselves thanks to annual reports the Philadelphia Water Department releases detailing a year's worth of data.

This transparency is a defining quality for public water providers like PWD, and we take pride in the tremendous effort that goes into the constant monitoring done at our labs.

During our most recent fiscal year, we delivered nearly 82 billion gallons of water to local homes, businesses, schools and other organizations. On average, our customers used 223 million gallons of clean water every single day.   

Making sure that water is great water that beats Safe Drinking Water Act standards is what drives us, and we're proud to provide this year's reportthe result of more than 10,000 monthly lab tests conducted by our scientists during 2016.

Read it now in English or Spanish or check out the audio version.     

In addition to the water quality data, you will find info about:

  • New programs and efforts to remove lead service lines from customer properties and educate people about getting safe water when your home does have lead pipes
  • How we get water from the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and what we do to protect our source water and watersheds
  • Why we help residents build landscaped rain gardens in their yards with matching funds of up to $2,000
  • How we monitor the water, what we look for and how our scientists deal with issues as they emerge
  • New educational programs offered through the Fairmount Water Works
  • What you can do to care for our source water at home
  • Who to call if you suspect illegal dumping in waterways or storm drain inlets
  • Local watershed groups looking for volunteers 

Give it a read now and let others know where to find this valuable information.

To receive a printed copy of this report in the mail, contact our Public Affairs staff at waterquality@phila.gov

'5 Down' Video Recap: Green City, Clean Waters Praised as 'a model for America'

You might have heard: Philadelphia is celebrating five years of Green City, Clean Waters, a massive green investment in neighborhoods that is now keeping 1.5 billion gallons of polluted water out of our waterways over the course of a typical year of rainfall.

Philadelphia Water gathered with the wide range of partners who made beating our five-year targets for greening and pollution reduction possible to mark that achievement at the Fairmount Water Works last week. (See great photos of the event here.) The celebration included speeches from our commissioner, Debra McCarty, and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection.

City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis—one of Philadelphia’s most dedicated advocates for improved recreation and green spaces—praised the program as a "model for America."

Green City, Clean Waters Is About to Grow Up. We Want to Hear from You.

What should Philly’s green infrastructure to look like in 2021? Tell us here.
Clockwise from top left: A stormwater bumpout near the Daroff Samuel School in West Phila.; rain garden in East Kensington; stormwater basin at Kemble Park in North Phila.; stormwater tree trench on Washington Ave. in South Phila.; Credit: Philadelphia Water.

This June is a big one for Philadelphia Water.

Green City, Clean Waters—our revolutionary program to drastically reduce stormwater pollution and sewer overflows using green infrastructure—is turning five. That means we're going from proving that we can build green tools that work to building a green infrastructure network that operates on a much bigger scale.

Spoiler Alert: Our Drinking Water Quality Is Really, Really Good

A section of the 2015 Drinking Water Quality Report showing how we treat tap water. Click for a larger image. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

A section of the 2015 Drinking Water Quality Report showing how we treat tap water. Click for a larger image. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Apologies to anyone looking forward to reading our annual Drinking Water Quality Report down the shore this summer, but we just have to get this out there: All the data we collected for the 2015 report confirms our rigorous treatment and testing are resulting in top-quality tap water that meets or beats all quality standards set by the federal government.

Of course, we knew that going in, but we put out the Drinking Water Quality Report—now available online in English and Spanish—every year because we believe our customers are empowered by having all the information that’s out there about their drinking water and what we do to make it safe and available to 1.7 million people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Our annual Drinking Water Quality Report tells the story of how we make this happen through our continuous treatment, testing, and monitoring,” Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug writes in the introduction. “This report, published in the spring of 2015, includes water quality information for the 2014 calendar year. We, along with our partners at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hope you take the time to look this document over and, if you have any questions, my staff and I would be very pleased to discuss.”

Looking at this year’s report, we’re proud to say that our water consistently meets (and often exceeds) the quality criteria set by the EPA; we go above and beyond what is required, producing approximately 275 million gallons of drinking water every day that exceed national safety standards.

How do we do it?

It starts with fighting to protect our source waters—the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers—from pollution. We follow that up with cutting-edge treatment techniques at our three drinking water plants, and maintain thousands of miles of pipes to make sure the water gets to customers safely and efficiently.
But one of our most important tools in every step of the process is sophisticated testing.

“Philadelphia Water conducts laboratory tests on river water, water being treated, water being sent to our customers, and wastewater coming back from our customers,” says Gary Burlingame, director of our Bureau of Laboratory Services division. “The regulations do not require all of this testing, only a basic minimum. We go beyond the minimum to continually check on the quality of the water throughout the city.”

Philadelphia Water collects more than 2,500 water samples every month, says Burlingame, resulting in more than 10,000 monthly lab tests at various stages of the urban water cycle.

“Because we collect so many lab test results every month, we have a specialized data management system to store and organize the thousands of data points that are entered,” Burlingame says. “Then, just as important, we have scientists and engineers who review the data continually to make sure that the quality standards that we set are being met.”

In addition to important information about our testing results and treatment process, the report is packed with useful things like contact numbers and tips for getting involved in protecting your local streams, rivers and water supply.

You can download a copy of the full report from Phila.gov/water in English here and in Spanish here.

While we send out notices about the report to all customers, not everyone knows it’s available.
Please share this information with all the other people who drink our water, especially those who may not have received a notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools and businesses). You can help by posting this blog on social media, by putting a copy of the report in a public place, or by distributing copies by hand or mail.

To receive a printed copy of this report, please email: waterquality@phila.gov.

Want to stay up to date on the latest Green City, Clean Waters news and get important Philadelphia Water updates? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter now by clicking here!

The Clean Water Rule: What Does It Mean for Philly?

Chris Anderson, Watershed Partnerships Cooridinator with Philadelphia Water, talks about what the Clean Water Rule means for our source water at a June 17 forum.
Chris Anderson, Watershed Partnerships Coordinator with Philadelphia Water, talks about what the Clean Water Rule means for our source water at a June 17 forum. Credit: TTF Watershed Partnership.

If you pay attention to news about environmental issues, you’ve likely heard buzz around something called the Clean Water Rule lately.

The Clean Water Rule, officially adopted at the end of May and formalized by President Obama, clarifies what waterways fall under the protection of the federal Clean Water Act and came as result of an extensive public input process organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On May 27, the EPA released a statement explaining why the Clean Water Rule is needed:

Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. EPA and the Army [Corps] are taking this action today to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act after receiving requests for over a decade from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public for a rulemaking.

So, what does all this mean for Philadelphia Water and the local rivers and creeks that provide our drinking water?

The short answer is that the Clean Water Rule doesn’t change anything about how we do things at Philadelphia Water or impact how waterways are regulated and protected in the city. However, it does strengthen protections for the sources of our drinking water by clearing up any confusion about how the Clean Water Act applies to the wetlands and tributaries that feed the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.

That’s extremely important, says Kelly Anderson, a member of our Source Water Protection Program, because 98 percent of the watershed area that influences Philadelphia’s drinking water supply is outside of the city’s regulatory jurisdiction.

Because having clear protections for that source water means healthier rivers downstream in Philadelphia, we have publicly endorsed the rule and expressed our support to local elected officials.

Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug advocated for the Clean Water Rule by expressing the department’s support to groups like Clean Water Action and by sending letters to elected officials at the state and federal level.

"This clarifying rulemaking restores protection for streams and wetlands previously protected under the Clean Water Act, safeguards water quality in the nation’s waters, protects jobs in businesses that depend on clean water and safeguards drinking water," Neukrug said. 

Just last week, Philadelphia Water took part in a forum on the Clean Water Rule with fellow watershed stewards like the Tookany/Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership.

At that event, Philadelphia Water’s Chris Anderson explained how the rule gives clarity to the many partners in our Source Water Protection Program, which works to make sure our drinking water sources—which range from the Catskill Mountains of New York to the Delaware Estuary to the south—are protected from pollution.

Philadelphia Water also came out in support of the Clean Water Rule at a June 1 event at the Fairmount Water Works organized by PennEnvironment to educate the public about what the rule means for Pennsylvanians.

Christine Knapp, deputy chief of staff for Philadelphia Water, touted recent water quality improvements at the event, but said the Clean Water Rule is an important part of making sure we keep moving forward.

"Philadelphia Water can only control what happens in the city, not what happens upstream. In addition to stormwater runoff, additional threats such as agricultural runoff, pollution from wildlife, and forest clearing all take place upstream from Philadelphia, and yet have negative impacts on Philadelphia’s water supply," Knapp said at the event. "That’s why the Clean Water Rule is so critical. By providing protection for additional streams and wetlands, it will leverage investments being made by Philadelphia Water—and municipalities all around the country—to prevent pollution and to improve the quality of our drinking water. We applaud this rulemaking by the EPA and the Army Corps and look forward to working with them and other regional stakeholders in our mission to protect public health by providing the highest quality drinking water." 

The Clean Water Rule By The Numbers:

98 Percent: The watershed area that influences Philadelphia’s drinking water supply, but is outside of the city’s regulatory jurisdiction.

117 Million: The number of people getting drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule, according to EPA estimates. That’s one in three Americans.

1 Million: The number of public comments the EPA reviewed as a result of public input efforts leading up to the development of the rule.

 400: EPA and Army Corps meetings held with drinking water stakeholders across the country.

1,200: Peer-reviewed, published scientific studies showing that small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream water bodies.

+1.5 Million: Number of customers who rely on clean drinking water from Philadelphia Water.

223 Million: Number of gallons of drinking water we supply to customers on average each day.

49,000: The number of miles of Pa. streams now protected under the Clean Water Act following the implementation of the Clean Water Rule. Source: PennEnvironment.

Watch a video from PennEnvironment advocating for support of the Clean Water Rule here.

Green Tools: Six Ways They Can Make a Climate Changed-Future a Little Less Scary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a cool new infographic out showing how the green stormwater infrastructure we use in Green City, Clean Waters helps to reduce the impact of climate change by making Philadelphia a more resilient city.

The EPA graphic focuses on urban areas and paints a grim picture of the future awaiting cities as the effects of climate change intensify in the coming decades. Considering the already staggering cost of flooding events stemming from super-storms like Hurricane Sandy, the projection of a 30 percent increase in annual flood costs is especially troubling. 

But there's good news, too: we already have the some of the tools we need to help fight the negative impacts highlighted. And, thanks to Green City, Clean Waters—a plan that the EPA approved back in 2011—Philadelphia is ahead of the curve when it comes to using green as a tool for making our neighborhoods safer, more livable places. 

We like to point out how our green approach makes our city a better place right now, but it's also about looking out for future generations. That's why Philadelphia Water is taking climate change seriously and designed Green City, Clean Waters to be flexible and adaptive in the face of environmental challenges that range from more intense storms to longer and more intense droughts.  

Check out the EPA infographic here:

GSI for Climate Resiliency: An EPA Infographic
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

When you look at numbers like those from the Burnsville study—a 93 percent reduction in damaging stormwater runoff—it's easy to see how having more rain gardens and other green tools will be a real asset in a future where we see more and more instense rain events. It's just part of larger long-term plans Philadelphia Water and the city have for addressing climate change, but Green City, Clean Waters will play a role in addressing those challenges over the next few decades. 

Want to keep up on Green City, Clean Waters news and events and learn more about sustainability initiatives at Philadelphia Water? Click here and sign up for our monthly newsletter now! 

PWD Director of Laboratory Services to EPA: Update Drinking Water Standards!

Water at the Bureau of Laboratory Sercives - PWD

Here at PWD, we have some of the nation's foremost thinkers and practitioners on water safety and quality.

One of those is Gary Burlingame, our Director of the Bureau of Laboratory Services. Gary oversees a staff of 120 people and an annual budget exceeding $10 million focused on drinking water, source water, wastewater, sediment, sludge, and more. He is a thought leader in the industry, widely published on the topic of the sensory aspects of drinking water—what you see, taste and smell in your water—having written about the topic for more than 25 years. He recently co-authored a report in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science and Technology, with Virginia Tech Professor Andrea Dietrich, calling for the EPA to improve its 50-year-old purity standards to catch up with what today’s technology allows us to detect and treat.

The report calls out the EPA for having outdated standards that don’t match advances in sensory science, changes in treatment practices, and modern attitudes and health expectations. It urges the EPA to review and rethink what are known as “secondary maximum contaminant levels” which provide guidance on the color, odor and other characteristics of drinking water not directly associated with health risk but still very important to the consumer. 

According to Burlingame and Dietrich, the EPA’s secondary contaminant standards are designed “to be a viable assessment of consumer acceptability and a means to instill confidence in tap water.” If consumers judge water that meets these standards as unacceptable, then it’s time for the standards to change.

PWD is proud to lead the way on drinking water quality. Burlingame’s work is one of many reasons why PWD has consistently been recognized with EPA Partnership for Safe Drinking Water awards for providing drinking water at purity standards higher than required by federal law. For us, the opinion of our customers about the quality of our water is a priority.

You can read more about Burlingame’s work with Professor Dietrich on Virginia Tech’s website or check out the report in its entirety

Join Us at Overbrook for the EPA Environmental Justice Grant Award

Exciting things are happening over at the Overbrook Environmental Education Center! What started out as a former brownfield site has now been transformed into an eco-friendly, urban environmental center with stormwater systems, orchard trees, a greenhouse and much more.

Tomorrow, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe is scheduled to announce the EPA’s Region III – Environmental Justice Small Grant Awards at Overbrook Environmental Education Center. Award recipients include JASTECH Development Services Inc. (Overbrook Environmental Education Center), the Clean Air Council and the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations, Inc.

After the Deputy Administrator’s presentation, he will tour the Soak-It-Up Adoption pilot project site with students from Overbrook’s partner schools including Overbrook Elementary, Parkway West and Richard Allen Charter.

EPA Briefing: A Chance to Connect it all Together

Image: CDC

Members from the Community Design Collaborative (CDC), Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gathered together on January 21st to share their expertise around plans for the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure in Philadelphia and other cities across the country.

Amongst the variety of interesting conversations, one question that was raised – how do we get citizens involved? Bob Perciasepe, the U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator, had some thoughts on the topic. “When you look at a broader area, look at the things that will happen regardless of planning and ask, ‘what can we do differently’?” A connection to green stormwater infrastructure could be made every time anything goes in the ground, whether it’s a road repair, roof replacement or even a new faucet! Thinking through this lens gets both the public sector and private property owner on board.

Shawn Garvin, Administrator of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, also added that, “A big selling point of green stormwater infrastructure is quality of life. There’s the water quality piece, but there’s also how neighborhoods will look. The beauty of this partnership is getting people thinking this way.”

The session wrapped up with green stormwater infrastructure questions of interest including how to push the design of the green stormwater tools neighborhood-wide and how to help people think differently about these tools as they go into the ground.

Read more about the meeting here.

New Additions to EPA’s Stormwater Calculator

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released phase II of its of the National Stormwater Calculator and Climate Assessment Tool package. This desktop application can be used to estimate the annual amount of rainwater and frequency of runoff from a specific location anywhere in the United States, including Puerto Rico. It measures soil conditions, slope, land cover, and historical rainfall records.

The Calculator now includes changes in seasonal precipitation levels, the effects of more frequent high-intensity storms, and changes in evaporation rates.

Users can enter any U.S. location and select different scenarios to learn how specific green infrastructure changes, including inexpensive changes such as rain barrels and rain gardens, can reduce stormwater runoff. With this information, users can learn how adding green infrastructure can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce stormwater runoff.

Read EPA’s full press release.

Find more information on the stormwater calculator.

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