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Climate change means more raw sewage in Philly’s waterways; Pa. lawmakers are doing less lawmaking | Morning Newsletter

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Whether you’re superstitious or just a little stitious, good luck out there this Friday the 13th. In Philadelphia’s waterways, it’s more than bad luck that’s causing raw sewage to flow into creeks and rivers at an increasing rate. And as climate change causes stronger, wetter storms, experts predict the mess will only worsen. Meanwhile, the number of bills introduced by Pennsylvania’s legislature has decreased significantly over the past decades as state lawmakers do less and less actual lawmaking, an Inquirer and Spotlight PA analysis found.

— Oona Goodin-Smith (@oonagoodinsmith,

On Labor Day, a little rain in Philadelphia caused a big problem. As a quarter inch of rain suddenly fell near Frankford Creek in Juniata Park, the creek surged to nine times its normal volume, and water carrying trash from city streets mixed with raw sewage from nearby homes, blowing past the treatment capacity of the city’s aging sewer systems and decimating the water quality.

Philly’s sewage system is designed to overflow during storms into local waterways, intended to prevent what could be catastrophic issues at sewage treatment plants.

But as the city deals with increasingly stronger, wetter storms, the sewage overflow also increases — and it’s making more of a mess than ever.

Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature and among the best-paid lawmakers in the country, yet they’re doing less and less lawmaking, an analysis by The Inquirer and Spotlight PA found.

The number of bills introduced in the legislature has fallen by more than 20% from its peak in the early 1990s, and the number of bills actually passed into law has fallen even more dramatically in the years since, according to the analysis of four decades of legislative data.

Instead, resolutions — often ceremonial gestures including creating task forces, urging Congress to take action on an issue, or marking special occasions like Banana Split Day on Aug. 25 — are on the rise.

For the first time last night, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren appeared on the debate stage together as the Democratic party’s 10 leading presidential candidates argued over topics from health care to race to gun laws in Houston.

At one point, candidate Andrew Yang announced that his campaign will give free money to random families, while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro botched an attack on Biden.

Read our takeaways from the third Democratic debate here.

What you need to know today

  1. While he was employed as a fraud investigator at the city Controller’s Office, the step-grandson of City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell allegedly used his position to solicit bribes from those who sought his help obtaining city permits, federal authorities said Thursday.

  2. Pennsylvania’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the family who owns Purdue Pharma, alleging that they “are personally liable for the devastation of the opioid crisis.

  3. After news broke that a longtime city teacher has a deadly cancer often linked to asbestos, a councilman announced legislation that would give the Philadelphia School District $10 million to deal with environmental hazards in schools across the city.

  4. A 23-year-old woman was killed by stray bullets this week while “just standing in front of her residence” in North Philadelphia after putting her 3-year-old daughter to bed, neighbors, friends, and police said Thursday.

  5. The daughter of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the daughter of North Wildwood Councilwoman Kellyann Tolomeo both pleaded guilty Thursday to creating a disturbance during a fight on a North Wildwood street corner last month.

  6. Despite the wet weather, the Phillies’ playoff hopes stayed alive last night with a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves and a four-out save from Hector Neris.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Love, it’s what the world needs now. Thanks for the photo, @mediumsizeddeal.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s Interesting

  1. The former Atlantic County Youth Shelter is now home to Juntos, an expanding program in South Jersey that provides shelter to unaccompanied children who have crossed the southern border into the United States.

  2. Yes, the spotted lantern fly is a nuisance, but please, stop bugging the Philadelphia Police about it, the department asks.

  3. Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sunday, and from festivals to book fairs to parades, there are a multitude of ways to celebrate in the Philadelphia region.

  4. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is free to gym, tan, and laundry once more. After spending eight months behind bars for tax evasion, the Jersey Shore cast member has been released from federal prison.


“‘Oh, we detainees don’t get to go outside. Only regular prisoners. I have not seen the sun for two months,’ she said. I looked at her sallow complexion and understood." - Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, a professor at Stockton University, gives an update on her friends, two South Philadelphia immigrants who were detained by ICE in July.

  1. Should Philadelphia City Council have term limits? At-large Councilman Allan Domb and at-large Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown debate the idea.

  2. Elizabeth Warren is a hypocrite for criticizing Joe Biden’s big-dollar fund-raisers, former Pa. Governor Ed Rendell wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Though Rendell is a prominent backer of Biden’s campaign, he told The Inquirer he wrote the piece of his own volition.

What we’re reading

  1. Photos of kayakers making use of a flooded Kensington construction ditch apparently did not float the developer’s boat, who is now taking steps to prevent further trespassing at the site, Billy Penn reports.

  2. Will high-speed vacuum tube travel ever become a reality? Jalopnik introduces some of Hyperloop’s most hardcore fans, who say it’s only a matter of time before we’re all loving the 'loop.

  3. From Kamala Harris’ sincere wave-turned-reaction GIF to Bernie Sanders stanning Cardi B., American politics have become enmeshed in pop culture and fandom. The New York Times examines how fan culture is impacting the democracy.

Your Daily Dose of | Flexible Spending

Animal yoga: it’s everywhere, and it’s not cheap. But which classes are worth stretching your budget for a little downward dog with a four-legged friend? Reporter Bethany Ao put these five classes to the test.