The latest diversion, which maintenance crews finally patched up at 4:30 a.m. Thursday, sent nearly 50,000 gallons per hour of sludge flowing into the river, which is the primary water source for Pottstown, Phoenixville, Royersford, and Philadelphia.
So far, those frequent sewage dumps have not adversely affected the water supply in Pottstown - the first community downstream - but are taxing the wits of local officials.
"It's starting to get aggravating for us down here," Bobst said.
Each time a new leak springs up in the Reading main, Pottstown must step up testing on water coming into its system. The Pottstown Borough Authority deploys extra chlorine to wash out sewage remnants, then the chlorine must be washed out before water can be pumped to consumers.
The cost of the chemicals, testing, and worker hours is starting to add up. So far, the authority has spent nearly $1,200 on precautionary measures. And that's not even counting time spent assuring customers that the water flowing out of their taps is not contaminated - an effort that begins anew each time Reading announces a leak, Bobst said.
Reading officials have drawn up plans to replace the pipe - a 600-foot section of an existing main moved by the state Department of Transportation in the late 1950s. But with so many emergency repairs in the last few weeks, they have had scant time to move that process forward, said Carl E. Geffken, the city's managing director.
Last month's earthquake and increased water flows from Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have put added pressure on the decaying pipeline.
"We've been up and working for 24 hours at a clip," he said. "These leaks have happened in such rapid succession that we've had to address what has already happened before we get a chance to address what needs to happen."
Geffken said Reading was sensitive to the concerns of communities downstream.
"We do realize this puts communities downriver in a bad position," he said. "We do want to be a good neighbor."
Pottstown officials will track additional costs the borough has incurred and plan to send Reading a bill.
"We want to get this fixed as much as anyone," Geffken said. "I've got enough on my plate already. I don't need another leak."
Contact staff writer Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @inqmontco on Twitter. Read his blog, "MontCo Memo," at www.philly.com/montcomemo