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Keeping the Schuylkill River Clean with PENETRON

Just in time for summer, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has announced the opening of a new water storage system adjacent to the Manayunk Canal: the Venice Island Water Storage Basin Upgrade. The project relies on PENETRON crystalline technology for comprehensive waterproofing to protect the nearby Schuylkill River, which provides drinking water to Philadelphia.

In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directed the PWD to upgrade and modernize the flood control and sanitary runoff system along the Schuylkill River. The resulting $45 million project was part of the PWD’s efforts to protect and improve the health of the Schuylkill River, the main drinking water source for the city.

The planned underground storage basin with a capacity of up to four million gallons of water required a relatively large area. The PWD chose the lower portion of Venice Island along the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. There was only one small problem: the location was already home to a popular but aging playground and community recreation center.

In order to carry out the project, the existing facilities at Venice Island were demolished and – once the underground storage tank was constructed – replaced with modern recreation facilities that include athletic courts, a children’s water garden, a performing arts center and public parking.

Expanding Storm Runoff Capacity

The cavernous, enclosed basin (approximately 400 feet long, 75 feet wide and 25 feet deep) provides temporary storage for diverted flow from the sanitary sewers during intense rain storms. The basin capacity can accommodate nearly four million gallons of water and is used only when water levels in existing sewers start to overflow. The stored water is later pumped out to a water treatment plant and on to the Schuylkill River, which eventually flows out to sea.

“The design of the new site and the underlying concrete structures reflects sustainable, ecologically sensitive storm water management,” explains Christopher Chen, Director of The PENETRON Group. “Combined with a careful riverbank restoration and an attractive park layout, this is a real upgrade for the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter emphasizes “the Venice Island project helps our city take another step toward becoming the greenest city in America.”

Finding a Waterproof Solution

Before construction could begin, however, the contractor, Town & Country, needed a comprehensive and reliable waterproofing solution to ensure proper functioning (to maximum capacity) of the storage basin system and to keep any sewage from leaking into the Manayunk Canal and Schuylkill River.

PENETRON crystalline waterproofing material and PENECRETE MORTAR were specified to seal any cracks in the concrete structure and the construction joints of the underground water storage basin and the sewage diversion chamber,” adds Chen.

Only a short time after application, the PENETRON technology sealed all the hairline cracks in the concrete structure, which was now bone dry. Subsequently, the new underground storage basin successfully passed PWD tests and received official approval by the EPA. The main source for Philadelphia’s drinking water was saved.

Good for Business

In addition to a cleaner environment, the completed Venice Island project will have a significant impact on the business district in Manayunk. Floods during recent years have caused widespread damage to businesses each time there is a major rainstorm. The new water management system has now eliminated that risk.

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