Heavy rains lead to sewage problems in Lehigh Valley

Approximately 65 inches of rain fell on the Lehigh Valley in 2018, the third wettest ever recorded in the region, and that much water can lead to a variety of problems, not the least of which is overwhelmed sewer systems.

The upshot has been an estimated 14 million gallons of untreated sewage spilling into the Little Lehigh Creek alone.

An effort to fix the problem is already underway but it could take months, maybe years, to identify all the cracks and leaks within the aging Lehigh Valley sewer system.

"We have identified some leaks that we will be addressing in the future, but we're continuing that analysis and review with engineers and the EPA and all the partners," said Susan Sampson of the Lehigh Valley Authority.

While Sampson recommends people in the Lehigh Valley keep their kids and pets away from local creeks and streams for the time being, she says there is currently no indication that local drinking water sources have been affected.

"That's not impacting the drinking water at this time," she said. "There's no public health concern. In that case, we would be putting out a notification to the public."

People who live in the region say despite the efforts in place to repair the sewer lines they're concerned that continuing development, especially in the west side of the Lehigh Valley, will continue to put a strain on the system.

"Upper Macungie Township specifically is growing at a rate that's unbelievable," said Cindy Graf of Allentown. "It's one of the fastest growing in the state and, of course, with more housing being built and people using the system it's going to break down."

Many wonder how long it will be before they can feel comfortable putting their feet back in the water.

"My seven year old loves to play in creeks. It's like his favorite thing to do. Now I just don't want him to get sick or anything," said Merin Haussmann of Macungie.

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