Crews work to repair and replace 100-year-old sewage piping in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Crews are still working to repair a broken sewer pipe that caused a hole to open up on State Street in Harrisburg.

Crews from Capital Region Water worked all night to repair the hole in front of the capitol building.

Part of State Street, between Susquehanna and 3rd Streets, are still closed, and the hole is definitely bigger than when it first opened up. That’s because crews investigated and decided they had to go in to fix not one but two sections of that pipe. Luckily, no one lost service when the hole opened up, just a slight inconvenience for parking and traffic.

This is what State Street between Susquehanna and Third Streets looks like while water and sewage crews work to repair the broken sewer line.

What some people may not realize is how old that infrastructure is.

"The sewer pipe is a brick sewer pipe. We don’t have the exact age of the pipe, but we estimate it to be around 100 years old, and this is an excellent example as to why we need to invest in aging infrastructure,” said Andre Bliss, the Community Outreach Manager at Capital Region Water.

Crews repair the older brick piping with plastic piping and open up a large portion of the street to do so - this type of repair leads to a discussion - with what money and when are the old pipes being repaired?

"Over decades, people were paying utility rates, but money wasn't going back into the infrastructure to fix it up. Instead, it was being siphoned off and spent on other things. In a properly functioning world, a portion of that money is going back into infrastructure. That's what's happening now in Harrisburg,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

The original hole had been about 15 by 7 feet and sent a bus carrying 40 people from Pittsburgh into it. Luckily, no one was injured. For now, people working near the capitol have to find a different route other than State street.

"I was going to have to get a new route, when I saw that I said, 'Uh oh. That's not too good,’” said Ivan Reeves from York.

"I thought it was incredibly bizarre. I know that smaller sinkholes have opened up in the area, but I never expected something like that,” said Karey Molnar, who works on State Street.

Mayor Papenfuse clarifies it is not a sinkhole but a broken sewer line, common for older cities. Capital Region Water repairs the sewage piping in the city. They say they inspect the pipes and install cameras into them as well as every manhole to take a closer look at the lines.

"We're also sticking cameras into the sewer pipes themselves. We haven't had a camera in this pipe prior to this break here,” added Bliss.

As for how uncommon a break like this is...

"Sewer main breaks like this happens in Harrisburg and happens in cities, older cities, across the county,” explained Bliss.

Still, some people say they’ve never seen or expected a hole this big to appear just outside the capital.

"That's one thing I didn't expect. I’ve been here for about four years now, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen,” said Reeves.

As for the timing of the repairs, Capitol Region hopes to be finished by Friday at the latest.