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Does Your Dog Have Spokesdog Star Potential?

Registration opens today for the 2012 Philly Water's Best Friend Spokesdog Competition. The Philadelphia Water Department is looking for two eco-friendly dogs—one in Northern Liberties and one in Queen Village—to help keep Philly's waterways clean by educating the public about proper disposal of pet waste. "Doo" the right thing: Always pick up after your pet and never put pet waste in a storm drain.

To read about the prizes, perks and contest guidelines, check out the Spokesdog page, where you can find out more about the competition and enter your dog. Registration is open until Feb. 15, and the finalists will compete in a judging and awards ceremony in their respective neighborhoods.

Sunday: Hidden River Expedition Lecture

Back in August, we followed author and artist Allen Crawford (a.k.a. Lord Whimsy) as he undertook his Hidden River Expedition, a 40-mile, three-day kayak trip from Mt. Holly, NJ, to Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia. Crawford blogged, photographed and recorded audio from his trip along the Rancocas, Delaware and Schuylkill rivers; join him on Sunday, October 30 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Bartram's Garden for a lecture on his "re-exploration" of urban waterways and the history of Philadelphia's rivers. More info here.

This Place Is BMPing: Herron Playground

Each week, we profile a BMP—short for Best Management Practices—to demonstrate how local businesses, organizations and neighbors are helping to keep our streams and rivers clean by managing stormwater on their property.

Those who attended this week's Low Impact Development Symposium in Philadelphia had the opportunity to take a bus tour of the city's green infrastructure projects and see how PWD is managing stormwater in an urban setting. One of the sites on the tour is Herron Playground in Pennsport. The playground features a porous asphalt basketball court with a subsurface infiltration system that manages runoff. Surrounding the play area and spray park pictured above are new trees and, on the south side of the site, a rain garden also helps to infiltrate water into the ground.

Locate this and other PWD green infrastructure projects on our Big Green Map.

Watershed History: South Philadelphia Tidal Marshes

From the desk of Philadelphia Water Department historical consultant Adam Levine:

Image: Temple University Urban Archives

Most people don't realize that much of the lower part of South Philadelphia was once covered by tidal marshes. South Philly was once called “the Neck” because of the shape of the area (look at a map of the city if you cannot picture this easily), and about six square miles of the neighborhood were covered by marshland laced by both natural tidal creeks and man-made drainage canals.

Besides the canals, miles of dikes were built along both the Delaware and Schuylkill riverfronts, beginning in the 18th century. The dikes kept the land out of reach of the high tide, which allowed it to be used for growing hay and other crops well into the 20th century. Millions of cubic yards of fill were used to raise these lowlands, a process that began in the early 20th century and continued for more than 50 years. Material used for the filling came from various sources, including city refuse, dredge spoils from the Delaware and Schuylkill river dredging projects, and material excavated during construction of the Broad Street subway.

In 1920, Christopher Morley painted a vivid verbal picture of this area in his wonderful essay. The accompanying map and photographs are used by permission of Temple University Libraries Urban Archives Bulletin Collection.

Click here for a 1927 image from the Evening Bulletin with photos and captions of Stonehouse Lane and the canals that once wound below Oregon Avenue.

Philly's First Porous Street 1, Hurricane Irene 0

We'll have a more detailed post in the coming week concerning the performance of Philadelphia's green stormwater infrastructure during Hurricane Irene, but the preliminary report from Percy Street—the city's first porous street, unveiled in June—indicates a unanimous victory for this green project:

  • There was no visual evidence of ponding (rainwater collecting in surface pools) on Percy Street during the storm, as the porous pavement handled the rainfall as expected.
  • The gravel bed below the street's surface filled up one inch at one end of the street and did not register any water filling it at the other end, suggesting that the rain was infiltrating the ground below the system as designed.

The Philadelphia Water Department observed several green infrastructure projects—stormwater tree trenches, a porous basketball court and a stormwater basin—during the storm, and we'll report on the results as the data comes in. Check out our Big Green Map to locate a green stormwater project near you.

PWD's Hurricane Irene Report Card

 Fairmount DamA view of the swollen Schuylkill River at the Fairmount Water Works


As Hurricane Irene blew through Philadelphia last weekend, PWD's water and sewer infrastructure was put to the test. How did we do? Our infrastructure was designed to manage hurricanes and, with notable exceptions in very low-lying areas, the water was kept where it belonged. Even in Manayunk, where the floodwaters inundated Main Street, well-prepared citizens minimized the damage as much as possible.

Maybe it's not really a report card if you're grading yourself, but here’s how PWD stacked up by the numbers:

  • PWD wastewater treatment plants received almost 1 billion gallons of stormwater, more than twice their normal volume, and maintained performance.
  • PWD cleared 400 inlets in proactive preparation for Irene, and that number—along with the help of citizens—is, according to Mayor Nutter, "a great part of why we didn't have as much flooding as we could have possibly had."  
  • More than 55 PWD employees worked over the weekend to answer calls and pump out flooded basements.  
  • The Schuylkill and Delaware rivers crested at 13.5 ft. and 9.77 ft., respectively, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia held up well overall but with saturated ground, trees did fall, electricity went out, and basements did flood. If you’re cleaning up, you’re not alone. After the jump, some tips to help with flooded basements.


News Stream: Shellfish Motives

Elliptio complanta freshwater mussel (Photo: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary)

Bivalves are everywhere: Here's a roundup of some recent articles on the local oyster and mussel population:

A report on mussels in the Delaware River near Philadelphia from Grid magazine:

"There's a lot more mussel work to be done out in the Delaware. In 2010, the research team found a species previously thought to be locally extinct, the Tidewater Mucket. The last comprehensive survey for Delaware River mussels was performed in 1919, and, as Thomas pointed out, the recent surveys have only looked in relatively shallow water. There's no telling what mussel beds sit in the channel."

One article on oyster reef restoration efforts in the Delaware Bay from the News of Cumberland County:

"This year, the task force is trying to promote awareness about oyster restoration after raising $200,000, said Jennifer Adkins, executive director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. According to Adkins, oysters in the Delaware Bay have been hit hard with diseases and are being affected.

'Ultimately, our goals for oyster restoration are to get the oyster populations back to their historic levels. We’d love to see where the populations are high again and be more self-sustaining,' she said."

And a second article on oysters from

"Sea captains employed by the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force are currently wrapping up efforts to replenish oyster reefs off Delaware and New Jersey. According to past experience, these efforts will boost the economies of local bayshore communities by approximately $5 million over the coming years. In addition, oyster restoration also results in cleaner water and better fish habitat."

Save the Date: September 10 Is Coast Day

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Photo: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary

Hurricane Irene Coast Day is coming! Come on out to Philadelphia's waterfronts on Saturday, September 10 for 2011 Pennsylvania Coast Day, a series of events on the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Paddle Penn's Landing in a kayak or swan boat, take a tour of the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel, watch dragon boat races and enjoy the interactive displays and children's activities near the RiverLink Ferry Terminal at Penn's Landing from 11:00-4:00. You can also take a free shuttle to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and get a discounted admission to the Independence Seaport Museum.

Not that we're the cruise director of Coast Day or anything, but we would suggest a September 10 itinerary of a morning at the Philly Fun Fishing Fest on the Schuylkill before hitting the Delaware for Coast Day events and activities.

The Whimsy Has Landed


On Saturday, author, artist and re-explorer Allen Crawford completed his 40-mile, 3-day kayak journey from the wilds of New Jersey and landed in Bartram's Garden, planting his flag and claiming Philadelphia in the name of ... Lord Whimsy. Visit for plenty of pictures and audio recordings from the trip. See Crawford among the spatterdock and river clams, hear him at the Naval Yard, gawking at the mothballed ships (or, in Whimsy's words, "recumbent goddesses of the sea").

After the jump, a great shot of the old Philadelphia Electric Company Richmond Generating Station, as seen from the Delaware.

Lord Whimsy Sets Sail

As advertised in this post from a couple weeks ago, author and artist Allen Crawford—otherwise known as Lord Whimsy—has embarked on a 40-mile kayak trip from Mt. Holly, NJ, to Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia. The Hidden River Expedition got underway yesterday morning; visit for a tracking map and, so far, an audio update. The good news: Lord Whimsy has reached the fork of the Rancocas River, and is searching the area (a prime hunting ground for the Lenape as well as European trappers) for arrowheads. The bad news: He's broken his boat's flagpole.

Stay tuned to Lord Whimsy's site for more updates over the weekend; we'll break down the highlights of the trip early next week.

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