A broken sewer line on the 8600 block of Prospect Avenue has been seeping onto the street and causing a pool of sewage and water to form at the intersection of Prospect and Summit Street.

by Brendan Sample

Residents of Prospect Avenue, Summit Street and Stenton Avenue have been growing increasingly frustrated with a lack of progress in fixing a sewage leak from a manhole on the 8600 block of Prospect. Ever since mid-December, raw sewage has been leaking from the manhole and trickling down Prospect onto adjacent blocks of Summit and Stenton.

It also has become a traffic concern, as the sewage has been collecting and freezing at the intersection of Summit and Stenton, causing a lack of traction on some parts of the road.

“It’s not a particularly welcome thought,” said Brian Wertz, a resident of the 8600 block of Prospect Avenue. “There’s raw sewage in the street, so this is a real health hazard we’re dealing with here.”

While neighbors who have had sewage run in front of their houses have attempted to contact the Philadelphia Water Department for assistance, getting help from the city has proved to be more difficult than initially expected, they said.

The Water Department, however, told residents that the leaking sewer line was not installed by the city, but is instead a private line. Because of this, the department has ruled that it is unable to fix the line itself, and that the property owners must be the ones to hire an independent plumber or plumbing company to work on fixing the line.

“PWD investigated and determined that this blockage is on a private sewer and it is the responsibility of the property owners that are connected to it to engage a plumber to correct the problem,” said Laura Copeland, PWD public information officer, in a statement to the Local. “PWD’s Customer Field Services unit will follow up to determine the source of the problem; however a registered, licensed plumber should be hired.”

Two PWD representatives did visit the site on Thursday, Feb. 15, but aside from running a dye test to determine what exactly is going into the sewer, they were unable to offer any other direct assistance.

The line itself is not owned by any one person, but rather was installed privately as a common line dating back as early as 1860. Because of the sewer’s age and lack of individual ownership, residents feel that PWD should still be responsible for fixing the problem.

“It’s total BS,” Wertz said of PWD’s explanation.

Still looking for solutions, the residents affected by the sewage leak have thus far been disappointed in PWD’s efforts to address the problem. Given that it has been a problem for several months now, neighbors are not looking forward to the idea of having to rely on independent work outside of city services to fix this leak.

  • SMC

    Since there are only 5 houses in two blocks being billed for sewer, it seems easy to figure out which line belongs where. Every house in the path of the raw sewage is on septic! I believe the house it is nearest paid a dear sum to connect to the city’s line on Evergreen. I’m sure they would have loved to connect to the line conveniently located near their house, but could not because it is private! The way this is written makes it sound like the neighbors don’t want to pay for it. The fact is that it isn’t being used by the people affected by the overflow (that I know of!).