Upper Roxborough Wades Through Reservoir Project's Headaches

Philadelphia Water Department talks problems with residents.

The work at the Upper Roxborough Reservoir has yet to improve the neighborhood's flooding problem. But Philadelphia Water Department officials say when their swle project finishes next spring, drainage will get significantly better.

Joanne Dahme, water department spokeswoman, met with Upper Roxborough Civic Association members Dec. 12 to discuss headaches the $2 million project has caused for residents of Lare, Summit, Eva and other adjacent streets. Paving, flooding and some safety issues have occurred since the work began.

The water department began the capital project this fall in an effort to use the inoperative reservoir to better handle stormwater in Upper Roxborough. Patch previously reported that the Water Department's aim is to control stormwater better by using the land and by flattening areas, extending pipes, and creating two large swales to collect water. The goal is for for water to enter the ground within two hours and alleviate the strain on neighbors. Eventually, the sewer system along Ridge Avenue will also flow to the reservoir.

Other than disrupting traffic, closing roads and transporting heavy duty machinery on the neighborhood streets, thus far, the water department has temporarily hurt drainage. 

"We will never leave a job with a system that's not working properly," Dahme said.

Dahme said the cause was 2-feet of soil that lays on top of the basins. The basins themselves see good infiltration but the fill—composed of dirt already on the site—poorly retains water. Standing pools of water exist throughout the site, some since Hurricane Sandy in October, neighbors say.

Chemists have collected samples and performed tests to determine a more suitable fill by altering the percentage of sand present. The solution could come in the next few weeks. Underground piping will also be installed with the new fill.

Michael Novack, a resident from Summit and Eva Streets, said he hoped the problem was that easily solved but wasn't sold.

"What might infiltrate in the upper swale might not in the lower one. The solution may not be as simple as fixing the top layer," he said.

Additionally roadway repaving miscalculated and poorly graded drive-ways on Eva Street—causing resident to bottom out when exiting their homes. 

"For whatever reason, it didn't jive... didn't quite make it as it should have," Dahme said, adding it already was in the process of being ripped out and redone.

Don Russell, another resident, said the repaving along Shawmont Avenue was poorly done and feared the perimeter of the reservoir would end up similarly shoddy.

Dahme said she would take the concern back to project engineers.

She credited the neighbors for being so easy to work with—especially those along Summit Avenue who bear the brunt of the headaches without having the flooding problem to start.

"The community has been great... People have been so receptive and kind to our crews," she said.

People can have a say in the future aesthetics of the Upper Roxborough Reservoir, as the civic association hosts Natural Lands Trust to its Jan. 9 meeting at the Roxborough Presbyterian Church. 

Click here to read more about that group's involvement.


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