Safety

So Many Ways to Keep Cool in Philadelphia. Opening Hydrants? Not One of Them

In Philadelphia, we’re lucky to have more pools and spray grounds per resident than any other city in the U.S.

Because we have all those great, free places to cool off, there’s no reason to open fire hydrants when the weather gets hot or risk swimming in our unpredictable rivers, where drowning is always a risk.

Opening hydrants can cause a number of dangerous situations:

  • A fire hydrant opened at full pressure can cause serious bodily harm, or even death, should a child, or an adult get pushed into oncoming traffic while playing in front of the hydrant
  • Illegally opening a hydrant can break the valves and make the hydrant useless when it’s needed most—during a fire on your block
  • The huge amount of water coming out of hydrants can flood local basements and cause problems with gas and electric lines
  • Operating hydrants the wrong way can break the water mains that are under your street when not properly turned on or off

If you see a hydrant open on your block, report it right away by calling our emergency hotline at 215 685 6300.

You can find a local pool operated by Parks and Recreation, or check out one of our local spraygrounds. The City is also hosting Swim Philly events right now—free fun activities like Aqua Yoga and Aqua Zumba at local pools. Check out the Swim Philly calendar.

Not a bathing suit person? Head to a local library and cool off while checking out the wide range of free resources the Free Library of Philadelphia provides for residents.

And, as always, take advantage of the clean, top-quality water available from your tap—at less than a half a penny per gallon, it’s the best way to stay hydrated when the temps soar.

So remember: hydrants are for fire, not fun.

For more tips about staying safe in the heat, check out this great guide from the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management.

Saturday: Get Rid of Old Meds the Smart Way


Image Source: DEA

Have prescription drugs you need to get rid of, Philly?

People with unwanted or expired prescriptions often want to get rid them to avoid abuse or keep them away from children. Simply tossing drugs in the trash, however, can be problematic.

In the past, that dilemma caused many people to flush drugs down the toilet or wash them down the drain. More and more people today realize that doing so can have negative impacts on our waterways and the aquatic life that lives there.

Luckily for those who care about our water, locations across our region will be collecting old drugs for safe disposal this Saturday.

Get the Facts on Lead and Water: Invite Philadelphia Water to Your Next Community Meeting

Philadelphia's water is lead free, but we cannot control the plumbing in every home. That's why we need customers to get the facts about lead plumbing. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Philadelphia's water is lead free, but we cannot control the plumbing in every home. We want customers to have the facts on lead plumbing so that they are empowered to remove lead pipes and can take daily steps to reduce exposure risks. Credit: Philadelphia Water

The danger of lead in drinking water continues to be a hot topic in the news, and we know many people have seen or heard recent features addressing the issue. Because we know that even small amounts of lead may be harmful to infants, young children and pregnant women, we understand why people are concerned.

Although the drinking water provided by Philadelphia Water is lead free—our treatment facilities and water mains do not contain lead materials—homes built prior to 1950 may have water distribution pipes/service lines (the small pipe that connects a home’s internal plumbing to the water main) made of lead. Copper pipes inside homes may also be joined by lead-containing solders, and some homes may have brass pipes, faucets, fittings and valves that contain lead.

What About All the Thirsty Papal Pilgrims? We’ve Got Them (and You) Covered

 


Watch this short video to learn more about how we make your water safe. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

On the eve of the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, there’s still plenty of speculation about just how many people will be in town for World Meeting of Families events. The most recent reported projections range anywhere between 300,000 and 1 million visitors and event organizers are prepared for as many as 1.5 to 2 million people.

To be on the safe side, Philadelphia Water used the upper end of that estimate in calculations aimed at ensuring our drinking water system will be able to handle whatever the Pope crowds can throw at it.

The short answer is that, yes, our system can provide plenty of safe drinking water for the city and any additional visitors this weekend.

To get to that conclusion, our Water Planning Team looked at factors like the level of demand recorded between Sept. 22-28 over the last six years, as well as the level of demand during other big events like recent Welcome America celebrations. Predictably, higher temperatures were the most consistent factor in increased demand. Most large events, however, didn’t create a significantly higher demand for water.

That said, it’s worth noting that temperatures during the Papal visit should top out in the mid-70s—a nice cool weekend for outdoor events.

Philadelphia Water typically delivers an average of 225 million gallons per day to the distribution system. The potential water demand during the Papal Visit may increase up to 278 million, according to our analysis. But, even if demand increased by 53 million gallons, Philadelphia Water would still be able to keep up. That’s because our water treatment facilities are designed to cumulatively produce up to 623 million gallons per day under optimal and fully functioning conditions. On top of that, the storage capacity for treated and untreated water in the combined drinking water plant and distribution system provides a substantial quantity— 1.065 billion gallons—to meet demand increases.

What does all that mean? It means that Philadelphia Water’s advanced and robust drinking water system is designed to make sure we all have 24/7 access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water, even during big events like this.

And, just in case you’re wondering what happens with all the waste from the Papal Port-a-Potties, we’ll be treating it at our Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant.

More: How Do We Make Water Drinkable? This Graphic Shows It All.

Throwback Thursday: Hydrants Are for Fires, Not for Fun...

A 1985 video from Philadelphia Water uses an original rap to warn people about the dangers of using fire hydrants to cool off.
A 1986 video from Philadelphia Water uses an original rap to warn people about the dangers of using fire hydrants to cool off. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

...if you want to play smart, don't let them run! That's the message in this (now hilarious) public service announcement from 1986 featuring a punchy little beat, original rap lyrics, and some, uh, funky dancing and clothes/hair styles to match. Take 30 seconds and treat yourself to this gem from 1980s Philly:

 

Done laughing yet? OK, now for the serious part: Plenty has changed since we put that out 29 years ago, but the underlying message is still the same. Opening hydrants to cool off decreases water pressure and makes it difficult for firefighters to do their jobs, plus it can damage water mains. The water pressure alone from a hydrant can cause serious injury or even death, especially if there are little kids around.

From a waste perspective, the amount of water used in one hour by an open fire hydrant can be equivalent to a household's water usage for an entire year.
In 2008 alone, taxpayers had to pay $1 million for damage caused by residents who opened hydrant caps. Fire hydrants are used for the sole purpose of fire hazards. Please avoid uncapping them. (If you see an open hydrant and want to report it, we updated the number at the end of the video: 215 685 6300.)

Lucky for us, the city has invested in lots of safe options for cooling off, including spraygrounds, pools and official cooling centers (remember, rivers and creeks are not a safe option). You can find all of the city's hot weather resources by clicking here.

Now, can we hear that hot beat one more time?

H/T to YouTube user Allison Venezio for uploading the original video earlier today, it made our morning!

PS: Know anything about the performers in this video? Shoot us a line at StreetGreening@gmail.com with the subject "Hydrant PSA".

Be Safe When Beating the Heat: Save Swimming for Pools!

It looks cleanenough for a dip, but don't be decieved: the Delaware and our other waterways can be a dangerous place to swim.
It looks clean enough for a dip, but don't be deceived: the Delaware River and our other waterways can be dangerous places to swim. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

Thanks to ever-increasing efforts to improve water quality, our rivers and streams are cleaner than they've been in decades. So we don't blame you if you're tempted to take a plunge to beat the stifling heat gripping the city. But don't.

Currently, our waterways just aren't safe enough for swimming and wading due to the presence of pollutants and germs like Cryptosporidium and Giardia, which can cause serious health problems, especially for those with weakened immune systems.

Here's a helpful flyer that outlines some of the dangers associated with recreation in urban waterways:

Don't Swim in Philadelphia's Rivers and Streams 
Click for a larger image that can be printed and shared.

While swimming in our rivers is against the law, the city does provide great resources for those who want to cool down with a swim: neighborhood pools! You can click here to find a pool, sprayground or Cooling Center near you.

If you're involved with an organized event that includes recreation on the Schuylkill or Delaware, check out our CSOcast page, which tracks rain events and provides alerts about likely combined sewer overflows that can put untreated wastewater in our rivers. The RiverCast page tracks recreational water quality on the Schuylkill between Manayunk and Boathouse Row. 

Unsafe water caused by combined sewer overflows and stormwater pollution is a big part of why we're investing so much in Green City, Clean Waters—our plan to reduce stormwater pollution by 85 percent.

We're not there yet and we'll never be able to remove 100 percent of the potentially dangerous germs in our waterways, but with your help and a lot of green infrastructure, Philadelphia is looking at a future with much cleaner rivers and creeks.

Until then: stay safe, and save your swimming for our pools!

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!

DC Reminds Us: The 'Why' Behind Green City, Clean Waters

The Philadelphia skyline frames a stormwater-fighting green roof on the Free Library of Philadelphia. Our city is leading the way on green infrastructure. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
The Philadelphia skyline frames a stormwater-fighting green roof on the Free Library of Philadelphia. Our city is leading the way on green infrastructure. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

We couldn't help but notice all the buzz down in Washington this week as they made the case for green to residents and unveiled revised stormwater plans relying heavily on green infrastructure. We congratulate DC Water on a big step in the right the right direction! Their debut also reminded us of our Green City, Clean Waters rollout way back in 2011, and got us thinking about the "why" behind green infrastructure.

So, why Green City, Clean Waters?

After almost five years of putting green infrastructure into neighborhoods, the answer to that question is clearer than ever. In a nod to the DC Water plan, here are four reasons Green City, Clean Waters is better than just sticking with the old way of doing water infrastructure:

Now. Unlike a massive underground tunnel system that would tear up neighborhoods for years, our green infrastructure is already providing water quality benefits. Green City, Clean Waters improvements allow Philadelphia to enjoy better water quality and environmental and social benefits right now. 

Better. In place since 2011, Green City, Clean Waters is creating environmental, social, and economic benefits that our neighborhoods would otherwise miss out on. Green infrastructure projects are increasing property values, beautifying neighborhoods, fighting extreme summer heat, creating natural habitats, enhancing public space and schools and even making neighborhoods safer.

Fairer. While other cities scramble for funds and end up saddling ratepayers with the burden of financing massive and outdated gray infrastructure projects, our 25-year Green City, Clean Waters plan is a cost-saving program that lets Philadelphia Water minimize rate increases and keep water affordable for all.   

Jobs. Green City, Clean Waters is fueling a green jobs economy in Philadelphia, creating high-value new jobs for residents and attracting smart workers and firms to our city. An ambitious and forward-thinking green infrastructure plan needs an ambitious and forward-thinking workforce to succeed, and we’re making that happen here right now.

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