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Through Rain, Sleet, Snow and Papal Madness, We'll Be Here

The stars of Philadelphia Water's customer service call center: They'll be on the line 24/7 during the Pope's visit. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
The stars of Philadelphia Water's customer service call center: they'll be on the line 24/7 during the Pope's visit, as will all essential staff who respond to customer needs. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

With Pope Francis just days away from his historic visit to the City of Brotherly Love, you can almost feel the excitement in the air. Like other city agencies and utilities, we've been engaged in months of planning to make sure the visit goes smoothly.

But, just as important, we want to make sure our level of service to every customer remains intact throughout the Pope's stay. Because providing clean, fresh water is the most essential service a city can provide, we never take a breakand we'll be on the clock, as always, 24/7 throughout the World Meeting of Families.

That means water main and sewer repair crews and equipment will be on hand to respond to an emergency anywhere in the city. And it means that our dedicated customer service staff will be on hand to answer any calls to our water help hotline, which you can reach by dialing 215 685 6300. Even our inlet cleaning crews will be on hand to make sure trash and other debris isn't blocking stormwater from the sewers. (For the latest official Pope-in-Philly info from the city, you can visit a special Phila.gov page set up for the occasion by clicking here.)

Now, a little bit about what you can do. If you're a Francis fan, you probably already know that one of his first major statements, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, centered entirely on environmental concerns. In that letter, he specifically calls out our "throwaway culture" and its impact on the earth.

Like any event of this size, the Pope's visit to our city is likely to generate a huge amount of waste. In fact, one company has already pledged to donate 1 million 12 oz. disposable water bottles. It's a generous gesture and we know how important it is for people to stay hydrated, but since studies show that about 70% of plastic bottles never make it to the recycling plant, that means some 700,000 of those bottles very well may become litter that could end up in our rivers and parks and will still be polluting the earth generations from now. Even if we manage to recycle every bottle, there's also the air pollution associated with producing, delivering and refrigerating bottled water.

If you are one of the many people heading downtown for papal events, consider doing our planet a favor by using a refillable bottle that takes advantage of a modern miracle: cheap, safe and abundant tap water. Philadelphia Water will be providing water connections for event organizers, who will offer filling stations. It might seem like a small gesture in the fight against our throwaway culture, but if everyone takes the pledge to ditch disposable bottles, it will have a big impact.

Want to help spread the word about using refillable bottles? We created a funny Pope meme you can share on Facebook and Twitter with the #PopeInPhilly and #CleanWatersPHL hashtags:

The Pope thinks reusable bottles are a great idea!  PS: Keep an eye on this blog for more on the Pope's Philadelphia Water reusable bottle. It's a real thing we'll be talking about soon!

UPDATE: Samantha Phillips, director of the City of Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management, has announced a new text alert system specifically for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit.

“If you are planning to attend this historic event, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts for the Pope’s visit to get real time information of real importance,” says Phillips. “Having piece of mind is part of enjoying the event.”

Enrolling is easy. Text “papalvisit” to 888777 and you will be registered. It’s that simple, and that important.

Alerts will be sent through the duration of the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit. Message and data rates may apply depending upon your plan with your service provider.

In addition, the City of Philadelphia offers ReadyPhiladelphia, which allows subscribers to sign up for emergency or weather alerts by text, email, and phone or the Everbridge app. ReadyPhiladephia is available year round to those who live and work in the city. Subscribers can get alerts for up to five locations in the city that are important to them. To sign up for ReadyPhiladelphia, go to www.phila.gov/ready and click on “Sign Up For Alerts”.

Now TRENDING ON TWITTER:

Philadelphia Water's Early Warning System Getting Praise from High Places

Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.
Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.

Our Source Water Protection Program at Philadelphia Water does all kinds of important work to ensure the water we drink is safe and protected, from far-off springs in the Catskill and Pocono mountains all the way down to the intakes at our drinking water treatment plants.  However, one of the most critical jobs is overseeing the Delaware Valley Early Warning System–a complex network that stretches from the Delaware Water Gap all the way to Wilmington, Del. and provides a way to sound the alarm when incidents like spills and flooding events occur. 

In recognition of the hard work the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP) does to make sure this crucial web-based system is constantly updated to provide the fastest possible warning and response during emergency situations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection selected the Delaware Valley Early Warning System (EWS) for the 2015 Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.  Our EWS will be among 15 other programs honored during a special dinner on April 28 in Harrisburg. The award recognizes “the development of a project that promotes environmental stewardship and economic development in the state,” according to the Pa. DEP website.

At its core, the EWS has a simple goal: to notify drinking water suppliers and other water consumers along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers of spills and accidents that occur upstream as quickly as possible. Doing that requires a sophisticated network of over 300 users representing 50 organizations that make up what’s called the EWS Partnership.  Groups within the Partnership can access the system via the EWS telephone hotline or website to alert the network about spills and other incidents, and high-tech features like real-time water quality monitoring and computer models showing how quickly contaminants are moving downstream provide additional information for quick and smart decision making.

Last year, the Source Water team made the EWS even better by implementing a new computer model that predicts the tidal movement of water–critical information during a spill or flood scenario–in the lower Delaware River, where tides play a role in where water goes. This greatly enhanced detail on tidal flows in the Delaware Estuary is of tremendous value to places like PWD’s Baxter drinking water treatment plant, which supplies approximately 60 percent of the city with drinking water.

Given Philadelphia’s location along two rivers at the very bottom of a watershed with plenty of industrial activity, incidents requiring the use of the EWS are inevitable.  This reality makes the work of the SWPP team–and especially maintenance of the warning system–incredibly important, so we are particularly proud of this award from the Pa. DEP. Keep on keeping us safe!

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