HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Harrisburg’s combined sewage and storm water system is more than 100 years old, and at times it shows its age.

“When the wastewater treatment plan is overwhelmed all that excess volume that is in the pipes gets discharged to sixty different outfall pipes that then discharges into the Susquehanna river and Paxton Creek untreated,” said Ted Evgenaidis, the Lower Susquehanna riverkeeper.

Last summer, 56 percent of samples had a level of E.coli that would be unsafe for swimming or water recreation — and in the summer of 2022 alone, there were more than 700 sewer overflows from Harrisburg into the Susquehanna.

“With climate change, we’re going to continue to see more frequent and intense storm events. Last year Harrisburg got three inches of rain in three hours. The infrastructure that we have in place can’t handle it,” Evgenaidis said.

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Back in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection sued Harrisburg and Capital Region Water. Three years later, Capital Region Water presented a long-term plan.

“They’re looking at piping that needs fixed. They are looking at pump stations that need upgraded. They are looking at green infrastructure like parks,” Ted Evgenaidis said.  

The Feds and the State say the water authority has been slow in making meaningful progress. So yesterday, they laid down the gauntlet– a requirement to come up with an effective plan to control those sewer outflows by the end of next year. If it doesn’t, Capital Region Water will face serious fines.

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Ted Evgenaidis, the Lower Susquehanna riverkeeper, says it’s long past time for this to get done.

“Imagine on any nice day like today you would see people out paddling, people swimming in the river, people having a good time. But you don’t see it a lot because of the issues we have here,” Ted Evgenaidis said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection tells abc27 there are still some details to finalize but says everyone involved agrees about what needs to be done.