Melrose Park Neighbors Association

Cleaning up Mill Run... an ongoing challenge!

This page last updated 3-26-02

Note that this page has many materials related to Mill Run and the local watershed. They are admitedly not well organized!

However, many resource materials are here. We encourage you to scroll and click and get familiar with what's here. Also see relevant links on our home page, bear the bottom.

A Letter from David Burke of the PA Department of Environmental Protection to our vice president, Andrew Rudin, March 7, 2002:


The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has come up with a plan to eliminate
the remaining sewage flow from the Mill Creek stormwater sewer and creek.

Special diversion structures will be installed at certain locations in the
storm sewer to provide for the diversion of dry-weather flow into the
sanitary sewer system. These structures have a flap-gate that pivots to two
positions. In dry weather the flap gate (valve) hangs open allowing water
to enter the connecting pipe and flow to the sanitary sewer. When it rains
and high flows are moving through the storm sewer, the flap gate is forced
to close, so that stormwater is all carried to the stream. These structures
will be identical to the one that PWD used a couple of years ago to remove
severely contaminated dry weather flow from the Sandy Run (tributary of the
Pennypack) near Roosevelt Boulevard and Brous Road. That structure has
provided several years of effective service, and can be credited with
removing one of the worst chronic water pollution problems in Philadelphia.

Note that the locations that are being considered for these diversion
structures are chosen so as to avoid the interception of clean, dry-weather
base flow in the stream. PWD recognized the importance of maintaining base
flow in the Mill Creek, and so they are designing this project to intercept
only the contaminated flow, not the natural flow. You can visualize this as
you look at the map of the sewershed that I have provided. The main stem of
the creek, as it flows through the upper parts of this storm sewer system,
travels from Cheltenham into Philadelphia at Bouvier and Cheltenham Ave,
then flows south to Lakeside, then turns and flows east towards the outfall.
This main trunk of the sewer is shown with a heavier line in the sketch.
The relatively clean water in this trunk sewer will continue to flow to the
outfall in dry and wet weather.

Attached to this email is a MSPowerpoint file with two slides. One slide is
a rough sketch, sort of a schematic drawing, of the diversion valve and how
it would work. The second is a sewer map of the T-088-01 watershed showing
the locations where these valves may be deployed. (If you cannot open the
file, please let me know and I will mail you copies of the figures.) One
valve is already in place, located at Pittville and Plymouth, and additional
valves will be installed as soon as they are fabricated by the PWD collector
systems staff. The work is expected to be completed by no later than the
end of this year, and it may be much sooner than that.

There is another aspect of the City's corrective action plan that I ought to
mention. I have downplayed it somewhat because I don't believe it to be as
important as the elimination of contaminated flow, but everyone should know
that this is also part of the plan: PWD wants to re-grade the stream bed
and re-shape the stream banks in the area of Coventry just at Cheltenham.
The main purpose would be to eliminate the deep pool that currently exists
at that location. They believe that if the water flows quickly away from
this site without being pooled up and stored here, then the aesthetic
problems with the stream may be mitigated. DEP has agreed that this is a
reasonable addition to the action plan, even though its overall impact is
less significant than that of the other activities. The City will need to
get permits from DEP to work in the stream. It is also expected that they
will need permission from at least one property owner (the house that sits
right next to the bridge). This work is expected to take place later this

If you like, I could make myself available to discuss these solutions with
you or with a group. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Dave Burke

Clean-up device for our stream

 Sewershed clean-up Map
 Click HERE to see this device full-screen.   Click HERE to see this map full-screen. 

Mill Run Coliform Data - Click HERE to see latest data.

Links: Mill Run Winter Photos: These pictures show a series of scenes of Mill Run in Winter. They were taken for for planning purposes for Earth Day activities.

 This scene shows the so-called "floatables" landing in Mill Run at the little park at Coventry and News Second Streets. These items wash into sewers in Philadelphia and float downstream in Mill Run from the culvert at Coventry and Cheltenham. This process has continued unabated for decades. Now that we have gotten the water pollution level reduced substantially, we intend to stop this landscape-destroying visible pollution. Join us in our work!

 Mill Run...

on its way back to natural condition

By Andrew Rudin

January 13, 1999


Introduction by Albert Fried-Cassorla...

Mill Run is a lovely stream that winds its way through Melrose Park. Ducks play in it, and the stream is enchanting at many places as it runs along.

However, the stream has its environmental problems. Neighbors are working closely with Township officials, the Philadelphia Water Deparment, and other organizations to assure that a total clean-up takes place. Over a million dollars has been allocated to resolving the situation problems. As a concerned, involved neighborhood, we are working on resolving situation.

The article below by Andy Rudin gives some of the particulars.


Description by Andy Rudin

Mill Run starts at the north side of Cheltenham

Avenue near the SEPTA overpass leading to the Melrose Park train

station. The water comes out of a concrete tunnel from three

sources -- natural springs, surface runoff gathered by storm

drains, and raw sewage. Mill Run follows Coventry Avenue and

New Second Street to flow into Tacony Creek by the fire tower

training facility on Tacony Creek Parkway.




One Melrose Park resident, whose house is on the banks of Mill

Run, remembers that there were fish in the stream about 30 or 40

years ago. Since then, Mill Run has become increasingly polluted

with raw sewage almost totally from homes and apartments on the

south side of Cheltenham Avenue. In that section of Philadelphia,

there are two sets of drains from each building. One is supposed

to carry only rain runoff, and the other sewage. Frequently, the

owners of these buildings and the plumbers they hired piped raw

sewage into the storm drain, which ends up in Mill Run.


The stream contains so much sewage that very few animals live in

the water. The Department of Environmental Protection has been

testing the water from Mill Run to find concentrations of fecal

coliform bacteria up to 200,000 colonies per 100 milliliters. A

public beach in New Jersey is closed if there are more than 200

colonies per 100 milliliters.


Many Melrose Park residents have protested to government officials

over the years, and on June 30, 1998 the Department of

Environmental Protection and the City of Philadelphia Water

Department signed a Consent Order and Agreement to correct the

sewage crossovers.


This project has started slowly. With the relatively dry weather,

the bacterial counts have been very high and the stench has become

more intolerable. While progress has been made in cleaning up the

water, the residents of Melrose Park need to make sure that the

work continues with the end result of water tests which indicate

no raw sewage.


If you are interested in helping with this project, contact:


Andrew Rudin

7217 Oak Avenue

Melrose Park, PA 19027-3222

Telephone (215) 635-5450

Fax (215) 635-1903

Email Mail