Two water main breaks and a massive sinkhole have created a trifecta of infrastructure trouble in Harrisburg recently.
More than 3,000 people remain under a boil water advisory until further notice, which may not be lifted until Wednesday, according to Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson.
Daylight could be seen from three sides of a 12-foot pipe. The century-old water line with a gaping hole showed the cause of this weekend's latest water main break. On Monday, an asphalt patch could be seen along the 1500 block of S. Cameron Street. Crews worked overnight to repair the damage that began on Saturday.
Shannon Williams of the Harrisburg Authority had information the water main break may have been caused by a water main break up the street last week outside Capital Area Transit. Old Man Winter has wreaked havoc on Harrisburg's pipes this winter. Yet, Williams and others are concerned Mother Nature this spring could unveil more weaknesses within the city's 160 miles of underground pipe.
Officials explain pipes tend to burst more often due to expansion when warmer weather heats the cool surface. The weather will only unravel a greater issue: infrastructure.
The majority of Harrisburg's water and sewer lines date back between the 1830's to the 1890's. With a large schematic map spread out on a conference room table, Williams pointed to the older water lines in the city.
Specifically, the pipe that burst over the weekend was from 1884.
This week, the Authority will present a plan to state-appointed Receiver William Lynch involving a way to purchase special equipment to diagnose the city's underground arteries. Williams said step one must be to identify a problem before a massive attack.
"So that we can be proactive, locate issues where they may arise and deal with them before issues happen," Williams said.
Remember that map? Currently, all of the city's blueprints are on paper. The Authority plans to update its analog system and install a digital database to better keep track of problem areas.
Of course, one problem is the city's current financial status - or lack thereof.
"We're likely going to have more projects than we will have money to be able to spend," said Williams. "So, we're trying to find out what we can afford and then phase in the projects over time so that we can get what we need."
She wouldn't put an exact price tag on the overhaul but estimated the cost around a billion. Yes, with a "B",
The Authority is open to various funding streams including grants, partnerships, and even high rates at some point. The Authority's business relationship with the city can be a bit confusing, but basically THA controls all collection and the city handles the operation side.
Both Williams and Mayor Thompson have noted on the record that negotiations are underway for THA to take full control over Harrisburg's system.
At an event, Thompson said the deal would take time.
"We want it done right," she said. "Past behaviors have been let's get it quickly so we have political gain. That's not what this is all about. This is really about recovery."
More like revival. Most elected officials finally see the city's failing system are suffocating under heavy asphalt and are waiting to crumble any moment.
This isn't Chicken Little, the sky isn't falling - yet the ground is.
"Our grandfathers' grandfathers invested a lot of money in this city for their love of the city and I think it's about time we did that again," said Williams.