WPCP

#InfrastructureMatters: Infrastructure Week Highlights Investments in Philly’s Water System

All this week, we’ll be taking a look at the broad range of water infrastructure that Philadelphia Water maintains to make sure people, businesses and City departments have constant access to clean, top-quality water.

This exploration of our ongoing work is a part of Infrastructure Week (May 16-23), a national movement highlighting the importance of infrastructure and infrastructure funding. This year’s focus: #InfrastructureMatters.

Most people know that clean water matters. Recent events have raised awareness about the importance of safe public drinking water, and people across America are thinking about their local water supply today in way that they haven’t in decades.

But too often, people don’t realize how valuable water—and the infrastructure needed to protect and deliver it—is until something goes wrong. Infrastructure Week is about recognizing that #InfrastructureMatters so that we take care of what we have and invest in the vast water system that has evolved in Philadelphia over the last 200 years.

On Earth Day, Think About How a Water Utility Can Help Our Planet

Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system at the Northeast WPCP; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.
Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.

While the Philadelphia Water Department’s core mission is to provide our 1.5 million customers with constant access to safe, clean drinking water, a big part of doing that job involves protecting and improving our local rivers and creeks.

After all, providing top quality drinking water is a lot easier when you take care of your source water.

That simple fact makes Philadelphia Water, in many ways, an environmental institution.

Philadelphia Water Makes ASCE's 'Game Changer' List

Game Changer: Our Biogas Cogeneration facility at the Northeast WPCP is changing the way people think about wastewater management. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Game Changer: Our Biogas Cogeneration facility at the Northeast WPCP in Port Richmond is changing the way people think about wastewater management. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

The American Society of Civil Engineers rolled out a cool new campaign last week to highlight infrastructure projects around the country that they see as “game changers”—investments that have the potential to change the way we live for the better.

Making their list of innovative infrastructure was our very own Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant, a high-tech facility that treats an average of 188.12 million gallons of wastewater per day.

Located in the city’s Port Richmond neighborhood, the 150-acre Northeast WPCP facility is our biggest and oldest wastewater treatment plant. So why is ASME calling it a “game changer”?

The Northeast WPCP is home to our Biogas Cogeneration facility, a modern marvel that essentially turns a harmful human waste byproduct—methane gas— into enough energy to power about 85 percent of the plant’s operations.

In cruder terms: it’s power from poop.

This infrastructure investment has a number of benefits, not least of which is a reduced operating cost, which helps to keep rates low for our customers. Considering energy consumption is by far one of the biggest expenses in water treatment, creating that much energy for our biggest wastewater plant is a big deal.

From a more altruistic perspective, the Biogas Cogeneration facility also acts as a double-edge sword in fighting climate change; we’re keeping a powerful greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere while simultaneously reducing the need for fossil fuel-sourced electricity.
That makes the facility a win-win-win scenario.

The ASCE also lauds our biosolids recycling program and efforts to replace aging pipes and water mains:

"… they have increased investment in water pipes by 25 percent in their latest capital improvement program. However the Department’s Strategic Energy Plan also looks to better manage future expenses – it includes a facility that will extract energy from material typically thought of as waste. … Their ultimate goal for all of the wastewater treatment plants in the City is to be net zero energy consumption."

You can check out the full story and other innovation success stories at ASCEGameChangers.org.

Learn more about our sustainability initiatives here and get an overview of how the Biogas facility works here.

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