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Planning Commission

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Dec 30

Thinking About Infrastructure

Posted on December 30, 2013 at 5:25 PM by Michael Stokes

I didn’t expect to spend Christmas Eve staring into my septic tank while working to unclog the sewer line draining into it.  Yet with 21 people expected for dinner in a few hours and about the same number of guests arriving on Christmas day, there wasn’t any choice in the matter. 

This unplanned chore was further proof to me that though Montgomery County’s sewer and water infrastructure is invisible and too often taken for granted, it is critical to our health, the quality of our natural environment, and the continued vibrancy of our economy.    This infrastructure includes pipes, manholes, pumps, storage tanks, treatment plants, and other important facilities that service our homes and businesses 24 hours a day throughout the year (even on Christmas Eve).  Unfortunately much of this infrastructure has been allowed to age and deteriorate resulting in an immediate need for costly repairs and replacement.

In order to understand the potential impact of our aging infrastructure, consider these facts.  In Montgomery County there are over 2,892 miles of sewer pipes and over 2,857 miles of water pipes of all sizes in the ground.  To give you a sense of scale- it is over 2,800 miles from here to San Francisco, California.   Montgomery County contains 43 municipal wastewater treatment plants, 5 water treatment plants, over 100 water service wells, over 100 sewage pump stations, 83 water storage tanks, and other facilities.  Additionally, Montgomery County municipalities rely on infrastructure located in Philadelphia and surrounding counties.  A significant part of this vast infrastructure was constructed between 1950 and 1980 with some equipment being much older.   Municipal, state and county governments also own infrastructure that manages and conveys stormwater to prevent flooding.  This infrastructure is also old and has been subject to many flood events recently that have caused significant damage to it. 

Good infrastructure is important to provide reliable service to customers while at the same time protecting public health and the environment.  Most importantly, future investments in infrastructure are needed to ensure that future generations can depend upon it.  Yet, cash alone will not solve this potential infrastructure crisis.   A more comprehensive strategy of managing infrastructure sustainably is needed. 

By the way, I was able to unclog the sewer pipe and enjoy a wonderful dinner with my family.

Tookany Creek Temp sewer III.JPG

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