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Come Learn About Green Stormwater Investments in Lower Southwest Philadelphia

Click the image to invite your friends and neighbors on Facebook.

Philadelphia Water will be at the Philadelphia Police 12th District July 13 meeting to update residents of lower southwest Philadelphia about proposed green investments that will protect local waterways while adding new landscaped green spaces to streets, parks and breezeways.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. as a part of the 12th District Community Workshop and will feature food and a raffle provided by the Philadelphia Police Department. All residents are encouraged to attend this event to learn more and provide feedback!

What You Will Learn About

The local investments that we will talk about at the meeting are part of the Green City, Clean Waters program, which manages water from rain and snow storms using special green tools like rain gardens and stormwater trees that soak up water, keep pollution out of waterways like Cobbs Creek, and provide other benefits like cleaner air and cooler blocks.

Green stormwater tools, called Green Stormwater Infrastructure, also help to make sure local sewers don’t get flooded and spill sewage into our streams.

Come Out and Hear the Cobbs Creek Story!

“The valley of Cobb’s Creek, north of Market Street” by H. Parker Rolfe. Source: City Parks Association 1905-06 Annual Report. Credit: Adam Levine and
“The valley of Cobb’s Creek, north of Market Street” by H. Parker Rolfe. Source: City Parks Association 1905-06 Annual Report. Credit: Adam Levine and

We know that people who are aware of their local watershed and the challenges it faces—along with why that water is important—make for better stewards. They care about issues like keeping pet waste and litter out of the streets that ultimately drain into the watershed. And they know what an important role programs like Green City, Clean Waters play in protecting their watershed.

Encouraging that kind of engagement and knowledge is the goal guiding our efforts to collect and share the stories and history connected to the 22-square mile Cobbs Creek Watershed, which is part of the larger Darby-Cobbs Watershed, one of seven in the city. Cobbs Creek itself starts right around Haverford College and runs through the western suburbs and West Philadelphia before entering Darby Creek above the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge near the Philadelphia International Airport (click here for an interactive watershed map).

Next week, we’ll be hosting a special talk about the history of Cobbs Creek with Adam Levine, a local historian who has spent two decades studying and documenting the history of water and waterways in Philadelphia. You would be hard pressed to find another person with more knowledge of what the city’s watersheds have been through since the first European settlers came here, and Levine’s presentations are always fascinating and informative.

Watch Now: Rowhome-Sized Stormwater Solutions in West Philly

Last year, PWD and Rebuilding Together Philadelphia joined volunteers and neighbors to install rain barrels, rain gardens and downspout planters in Cobbs Creek-area rowhomes. The short film below by GreenTreks tells the story: We can manage stormwater and prevent sewer overflows with rowhome-sized tools and community involvement.

8,000 Feet of Stream Restoration

Cobbs Creek stream restoration near Marshall Road, completed in 2004

Join us on Thursday, November 17 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center to learn about the planned stream restoration for Cobbs Creek, which will encompass approximately 8,000 linear feet of stream length. Gerald Bright, an environmental program scientist with PWD, will provide an overview of the restoration and its aim to mitigate combined sewer overflows and improve water quality using natural stream channel design techniques. The project will enhance Cobbs Creek Park by installing stormwater management projects, improving trails and gateways, and creating a more scenic waterway.

Learn more about PWD's efforts to improve water quality through Waterways Restoration.

You're Invited: Green Homes Movie Premiere

On a cold Saturday last November, more than 100 volunteers joined PWD and Rebuilding Together Philadelphia in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of Philadelphia to install rain barrels, rain gardens and downspout planters (such as the one pictured above) in residential homes. These green tools not only prevent stormwater pollution from running into the rivers and streams that supply our drinking water, they also beautify the neighborhood.

Now, a year later, participants and neighbors will get together for a status update on how their green projects are performing, and GreenTreks will premiere Green Homes videos featuring Cobbs Creek residents and their projects. Join us Wednesday, November 16 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. at the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center for this free event. Refreshments will be served! RSVP to

This Saturday: Cradle of Birding Festival

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Visit the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum this Saturday, September 17 for the Cradle of Birding Wildlife and Conservation Festival. From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., enjoy a free day of activities at the refuge, including live music, exhibits, animals, a bird-a-thon (that's a Snowy Egret above, a common species at John Heinz), food, games and workshops for fly-tying, fishing and photography.

Call 215-365-3118 or visit the refuge's website for more information; we can't stress enough how close and accessible the refuge is from I-95 and Center City Philadelphia—click here for directions via public transportation or car.

Our Heroes: Awards For Cobbs Creek Protectors

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PWD Commissioner Howard Neukrug with Watershed Hero Award recipients

Yesterday, the 10 Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center interns who discovered and investigated a fish kill in Cobbs Creek (see our previous postwere presented with Watershed Hero Awards by the Philadelphia Water Department. PWD Commissioner Howard Neukrug thanked the students for their environmental stewardship and Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony H. Williams was also present to acknowedge their hard work. 

The 10 students spent the summer working along Cobbs Creek conducting water quality tests and learning about the stream ecosystem as part of the Philadelphia Youth Network's internship program. The high school students' interests vary widely, from Kamal Gatewood (who particularly likes robotics) to Josephine Horne (who plans to major in psychiatry in college), but all shared an enthusiasm for the creek and readily identified any trees in view, including the Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) pictured in the background. 

Check out the Watershed Hero Award certificate (made by PWD's Katie Shafer) after the jump.

Conservationist Crew Cracks Cobbs Creek Chlorine Case

Photo: Tom Avril/Philadelphia Inquirer

We neglected to mention this Philadelphia Inquirer story from two weeks ago, in which a group of teenaged summer interns at the Cobbs Creek Environmental Education Center solved the mystery of a fish kill in the West Philadelphia waterway. Following the creek upstream, 10th grader Kamal Gatewood (pictured, above) caught the scent of chlorine, originating from the drainage pipe of a municipal swimming pool.

"'We could smell it from about 20 feet away,' the 15-year-old [Gatewood] said.

The trio said they tested the drainage water with a portable test kit. They added chemicals to their water samples, causing them to change color, which they then checked on a chart that revealed the chlorine level. It read more than five parts per million. Fish can be killed by levels less than one-tenth that amount, according to a Duke University website. However, those readings were taken directly from the drainage pipe; the water in the creek was much more diluted.

At the suggestion of Singh and Kurnick, sewer repair workers agreed to move the pipe so it drained into a sewer grate."

Stay tuned for more news on this watershed detective work.

Take A Hike

Philadelphia's rivers and streams provide ample opportunity for recreation; events in the coming week suggest it's hiking season in the parks and refuges near the water:

At the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, there's a Summer Bird Walk on Saturday, July 9 and a Birding By Ear Walk on Sunday, July 10. Check here for the full summer schedule of events.

The Friends of the Wissahickon are sponsoring a three-mile hike on Wednesday, July 13. The hike is guided by a trail ambassador and begins at the Valley Green Inn: "Experience caves, trek the famous Fingerspan Bridge, cross Devil's Pool, discover The Spring House, Shakespeare's Rock, learn about major improvements to the trails, the history of the Livezey Mill, and other areas of the park and hopefully, spot some local wildlife." Click here to register for free.

The Lower Merion Conservancy has hula hoops and butterflies on Sunday, July 10 and a free Summer Evening Hike on Wednesday, July 13 in Gladwyne: "Hike from the lush creekside trail in Turtle Hollow, past the Henry Foundation, to Riverbend and back through the Philadelphia Country Club. A lovely way to complete the exploration of bridlepaths that connect Rolling Hill Park to Riverbend."

Cobbs Creek 5K Run/Walk

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Rain didn't dampen the first annual Darby-Cobbs 5K Run/Walk on April 23rd—approximately 150 participants and mayors from three municipalities (including Philadelphia's own mayor, Michael Nutter) showed up for the event. The runners and walkers were able to enjoy the scenic setting of Cobbs Creek Park and experience the unique, trail-like nature of the course. The Philadelphia Water Department was proud to co-sponsor the event, held to raise awareness of the resources of Cobbs Creek Park. All proceeds from the 5K go directly toward revitalization of the park. Learn more about the park here or check out the activities and resources available at the Cobbs Creek Environmental Education Center. Thank you to our friends and co-sponsors:

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