Tag Archives: Wingohocking

Historic Wingohocking Watershed Flooding and Combined Sewer Overflow Zoom Talks: Sept 16 & Oct. 14th

Philadelphia’s historic Wingohocking Watershed is a large area in Northwest Philadelphia that extends roughly from Gowen St in the north to I St in the South and from Wolston Ave on the east to Germantown Ave on the west. The Creek was encased in combined sewers in the late 1800s, early 1900s to help solve gross water pollution caused by 1,000’s of homes, farms and businesses discharging raw sewage and wastewater into the local creek and its tributaries.  The combined stormwater and wastewater sewers, large for their construction period, have proven to be too small by today’s standards.

In the 1920 – 30s, Logan area businesses and homeowners threated a tax revolt if something wasn’t done about the chronic flooding in the Logan area. The City responded by increasing capacity for the lower portion of the Wingohocking Watershed; unfortunately the Germantown – E Mt Airy – Ogontz area sewer capacities were not increased, resulting in our upper watershed flash flooding problems.

The City expended substantial capital costs to build the combined sewers. After spending these large sums of money, the City encouraged development in the area, including on the historic flood plains of the Wingohocking Creek. In fact, Belfield Ave and Sprague Street were built right over the former Wingohocking Creek. Today’s flash flooding is the natural flooding of the Creek during major rainstorms.

The Wingohocking watershed is the City’s largest combined sewer area, with annual discharges of 1.5 billion gallons of combined sewage to the Frankford Creek at the I St and Ramona Ave outfall, called T14 by the Water Department.

How will the City solve our flooding and combined sewage overflow problems? The City and the Germantown – E Mt Airy and Ogontz neighborhoods are at a critical juncture point where we need to adopt plans to resolve both the flash flooding and the combined sewer overflow problems. We need to learn from past Wingohocking mistakes and make sure that our decisions do not just repeat the mistakes of the past.

As a retired environmental engineer, I have been studying my watershed for years. Please join me for 2 more talks on the Wingohocking Watershed flooding and combined sewer problems and learn about available options to address both issues, either separately or in a joint – integrative approach. My goal is to inform my Germantown – E Mt Airy – Ogontz neighbors of our water problems and help all of us to understand the options we and the City have to solve them.

The Sept. 16 and October 14th (7:oo – 8:00 PM) ZOOM talks will give you the facts and information you need to understand our water challenges and opportunities and to be prepared to add your voice as the City prepares to decide the future of our watershed.

Chew & E Washington Lane Flooding – August 4, 2020

Tropical storm Isaias dropped 4.5 inches on Germantown – E Mt Airy on August 4th, causing flooding in lower areas. this video shows the situation at Chew & E Washington Lane.

Chew & E Washington Lane

The 2nd and 3rd videos shows flooding of the E Washington Lane underpass for the SEPTA R7 line.

E Washington Lane Underpass to SEPTA R7 Line
E Washington Lane Underpass to SEPTA R7 Line

E Mt Pleasant Ave & Sprague St Flooding – July 24, 2020

For the 2nd Friday in July, there was flooding in the historic Wingohocking Creek Watershed, this time at E Mt Pleasant Ave and Sprague St. The previous July 2020 flood occured at Belfield and Church on July 10th (link).

Here is a short video that shows the flooding between the SEPTA bridge and Devon St.

This flooding was caused by the blocked stormwater inlet shown in this picture.

The July 11th Belfield and Church flooding (link), on the other hand, was caused by too much stormwater runoff overwhelming the sewers in that area.

The July 24 rainfall for Philadelphia is shown in this map which shows that our area got 1.5 – 2 inches and parts of Germantown got 2.5 – 3 inches.

As our global climate warms, we are seeing more intense rain storms. The July 10 and July 24 storms are an example of what we can expect. Please let me know if you see historic Wingohocking Watershed flooded intersections, railroad underpasses of other flooding so that we can log and document them to make sure that the City is aware and taking steps to both clear our inlets and increase our combined sewer capacity to reduce future flooding.

If you live near on of PWD’s 24 flood prone intersections (link) please be sure to get homeowners – renters insurance.

E Mt Airy – Germantown Flash Flooding & Rezoning

Northwest Philadelphia’s Wingohocking Sewershed (maps below) is in a serious catch-22 situation because the historic Wingohocking Creek was enclosed into the City’s combined sewers many years ago. Key points:

  • Numerous areas in the Wingohocking are prone to both surface flash flooding and sewer backups from stormwater.
  • There are no designated 50-100 year flood plains because the historic Wingohocking Creek was enclosed in a sewer and FEMA does not consider sewer overflows in flood plain designations.
  • Wingohocking Sewershed homeowners are not eligible for FEMA supported flood insurance even though they may live in flood prone areas.
  • The City has allowed impervious cover in the Wingohocking Sewershed greater than the City’s combined sewers can handle during some flash flooding conditions.
  • Downstream flooding in the City’s combined sewers is caused by upstream stormwater flows greater than the capacity of the downstream combined sewers.
  • Upstream Wingohocking impervious cover contributes to downstream flooding.

The City has a dual role in the E Mt Airy – Germantown flooding situation:

  1. Manage impervious cover to limit stormwater flows to available downstream capacity
  2. Provide adequate combined sewer capacity to protect life and property.

In the Wissahickon Watershed, the City has a Watershed Overlay District that restricts impervious cover to 10 – 45% based on land category. There is no comparable Wingohocking Sewershed Overlay district.  Properties along Germantown Ave between Cresheim Road and Allen Lane have an impervious cover limit while properties from Allen Lane to Washington Lane in the Wingohocking Sewershed have no impervious cover limit.

Wingohocking flooding in September, 2011 caused the drowning death of a young woman who was trapped in her car in 6-feet of flood water near Belfield and Haines( video here). After initial modeling efforts by Water Department and US Army Corp of Engineers, the Water Department issued a Request for Proposals in the fall in 2015, hired a highly regarded engineering firm and received their draft report in the fall of 2018. We are awaiting the release of this critical report.

The City Planning Commission reports that Germantown Avenue is experiencing “rapid redevelopment today”. This argues for immediate zoning controls of impervious cover in the Wingohocking Sewershed, including properties along Germantown Ave.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission will be holding a Germantown Avenue Rezoning meeting on March 27th. Please contact EMAN, Mt Airy USA, Mt Airy BID and the Planning Commission to ask that the Philadelphia Water Department attend the March 27th meeting and provide information on the Germantown Storm Flood Relief Capital Improvement Plan and address the potential impacts of rezoning Germantown Ave., a new Wingohocking Sewershed Overlay District or other steps they recommend to reduce today’s Wingohocking flooding situation.

We must begin taking steps to protect life and property in the Wingohocking Sewershed.