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Sneak Peek: Cobbs Creek Oral History Project + Virtual Walking Tour

Come to the Cobbs Creek Library on Aug. 7 at 6:30 p.m. to learn about an oral history of the area.

Starting in 2015, the Philadelphia Water Department's Public Engagement team began recording conversations with members of the Cobbs Creek community.

The goal?

To better understand how people feel about Cobbs Creek—one of Philadelphia's seven major watersheds—and what they want to see for the neighborhood, the park, and the stream.

You can get a sneak peek of the project by visiting this site, and all are welcome to join us at an open house event being held at the Cobbs Creek branch of the Free Library on Monday, August 7 at 6:30 p.m.

In addition to a presentation about the oral history project, residents will get to explore a new virtual walking tour that uses a web-based "story map" to explore 17 new green stormwater tools coming to the Cobbs Creek Parkway. These systems will add new landscaping and amenities to the area while keeping millions of gallons of runoff and sewer overflow pollution out of the creek each year.

Refreshments will served: please RSVP here!

This event is being hosted by the Cobbs Creek Neighbors, a community group working to improve the neighborhood and enhance local green spaces, including the Darby-Cobbs Watershed.

Watershed Stewards PHL, a group of local high school students working with PWD and the Land Health Institute this summer to protect the Cobbs, will also be on hand to talk about their work so far.

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.

Big News: Green City, Clean Waters Blows Past Year Five Targets

Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra McCarty and City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis (right) announce that Philadelphia more than doubled five-year pollution reduction targets. Credit: Brian Rademaekers/Philadelphia Water
Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra McCarty and City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis (right) announce that Philadelphia more than doubled five-year pollution reduction targets. Credit: Brian Rademaekers/Philadelphia Water

The City of Philadelphia announced a major achievement accomplished through the Green City, Clean Waters program at a June 16 celebration marking the five-year anniversary of the Green Stormwater Infrastructure plan’s adoption.

Joined by community and business partners, industry experts, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garwin, Pa. DEP Regional Director Cosmo Servidio and City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBeradinis at the historic Fairmount Water Works, officials from Philadelphia Water unveiled figures showing that the City more than doubled five-year pollution reduction targets established at the start of the Green City, Clean Waters program in June 2011.

Philadelphia Water Challenge Seeks Innovative Approach to Streamlining Green Infrastructure Projects

The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge seeks to make projects like the stormwater tree trenches seen above more efficient by improving the subsurface analysis that takes place before construction. Learn more at Credit: Philadelphia Water
The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge seeks to make projects like the stormwater tree trenches seen above more efficient by improving the subsurface analysis that takes place before construction. Learn more at Credit: Philadelphia Water

Philadelphia Water, in partnership with the City’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), and the internationally renowned Citymart organization, is proud to present the Philadelphia Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Innovation Challenge.

#InfrastructureMatters: Infrastructure Week Highlights Investments in Philly’s Water System

All this week, we’ll be taking a look at the broad range of water infrastructure that Philadelphia Water maintains to make sure people, businesses and City departments have constant access to clean, top-quality water.

This exploration of our ongoing work is a part of Infrastructure Week (May 16-23), a national movement highlighting the importance of infrastructure and infrastructure funding. This year’s focus: #InfrastructureMatters.

Most people know that clean water matters. Recent events have raised awareness about the importance of safe public drinking water, and people across America are thinking about their local water supply today in way that they haven’t in decades.

But too often, people don’t realize how valuable water—and the infrastructure needed to protect and deliver it—is until something goes wrong. Infrastructure Week is about recognizing that #InfrastructureMatters so that we take care of what we have and invest in the vast water system that has evolved in Philadelphia over the last 200 years.

Green City, Clean Waters Is About to Grow Up. We Want to Hear from You.

What should Philly’s green infrastructure to look like in 2021? Tell us here.
Clockwise from top left: A stormwater bumpout near the Daroff Samuel School in West Phila.; rain garden in East Kensington; stormwater basin at Kemble Park in North Phila.; stormwater tree trench on Washington Ave. in South Phila.; Credit: Philadelphia Water.

This June is a big one for Philadelphia Water.

Green City, Clean Waters—our revolutionary program to drastically reduce stormwater pollution and sewer overflows using green infrastructure—is turning five. That means we're going from proving that we can build green tools that work to building a green infrastructure network that operates on a much bigger scale.

New Living Wall Acts as a Billboard for Green Tools

UPDATE: Please join us Friday, October 9th at 10:30 a.m. to meet the partners behind this project! Details here.


Right: The frame of the living wall with native plants ready for installation. Right: The nearly completed wall before the installation of four stormwater tanks. Credit: Philadelphia Water and SHIFT_DESIGN.
Right: The frame of the living wall with native plants ready for installation. Right: The nearly completed wall before the installation of four stormwater tanks. Credit: Philadelphia Water and SHIFT_DESIGN.

Philadelphia residents and tourists in the city’s historic Independence Hall area can now soak in a truly stunning piece of green infrastructure. Thanks to a partnership between Philadelphia Water, the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park and SHIFT_DESIGN, a breathtaking new “living wall" is now managing stormwater runoff from the roof of the Department of Interior building located at 3rd and Walnut streets.

And, if the steady stream of passersby who stopped to admire and ask about the project during last week’s installation is any indicator, the colorful grid of flowers and grasses is already a success from a public education standpoint. 

Featuring over 70 individual plants—all of them native to Pennsylvania—suspended from a vertical structure, the living wall collects rainwater from the roof in four stainless steel tanks. Instead of flowing into Philadelphia’s sewer system, which can become overwhelmed during intense rainstorms, the water is pumped from the storage tanks via solar power into irrigation lines that sustain the plant life.

The wall was made possible as a result of the partnership between Philadelphia Water, the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Coastal Nonpoint Pollution (CNPP) grant program. A Philadelphia-based business, SHIFT_DESIGN conceived, fabricated and installed the living wall, even donating some of their services to make this billboard for the functional beauty of green stormwater infrastructure a reality.

"For Philadelphia Water, this project is part of ongoing efforts to promote a better understanding of our Green City, Clean Waters program," says Paul Fugazzotto, a member of the department’s public engagement team who worked to develop the partnership. "This living wall will inspire businesses and residents to pursue creating their own innovative, beautiful green tools."

Mario Gentile, founder of SHIFT_DESIGN, says that, like all of the firm’s projects, the living wall was made using completely locally sourced and recycled materials.

"This is a completely self-contained system, so it’s not taxing the grid from an electricity or water perspective," says Gentile. "We like to do projects like this to prove that it’s doable."

Drexel students Oliver Law, Hanna Karraby, Aimee Turner and Iat Chi Sin are working with SHIFT_DESIGN through a cooperative program and helped install the wall, which is scheduled to be finished this week after a two-and-a-half year process. 

Check out our Flickr page to see more images of this stunning living wall and the installation process. 

'Uncover the Green' Lids Highlight the ‘Underdog’ of GSI

Inset: Laura Hoover (at right) with her winning design. At bottom left: a new "Uncover the Green" clean out lid.
Inset: a new "Uncover the Green" clean out lid. Laura Hoover (at right) poses with her winning design at the Fairmount Water Works.

If anyone ever said infrastructure can’t be functional and eye-catching, we’re proving them wrong.

Over the last week, our Green Stormwater Infrastructure Maintenance team (GSIMN) has been busy installing artistic "clean out covers" that aren’t just essential for our green tools and sewers—they’re also downright beautiful.

Like Waterways, a temporary street art installation that debuted in Manayunk in May, the new clean out lids use art as a way of speaking to residents about the importance of green infrastructure investments and highlight the presence of green tools in neighborhoods.

The sidewalk and street installations, which incorporate "Philadelphia Water" and an intricate tree branch pattern, are the fruit of our 2014 “Uncover the Green” student design competition. In the coming weeks and months, 1,000 of the new engraved cast iron covers will be placed over access points that allow maintenance crews to inspect and clean the hidden but crucial components of GSI that capture stormwater.

The covers were designed by Tyler School of Art’s Lauren Hoover, who was an undergraduate student when her submission was selected by design professionals, outreach experts and various government agency representatives in May 2014. Hoover also won the People’s Choice Award, voted on by participants at an Uncover the Green award ceremony held at the Fairmount Water Works. Over 40 students submitted designs, and Hoover’s work was selected from among eight semifinalists.

The citywide contest was held in conjunction with the Mural Arts Program and sponsored by NextFab and Fleisher Art Memorial.

With the distinct new lids, residents will have one more way to spot the green stormwater tools that enhance the beauty of our neighborhoods and make Green City, Clean Waters work.

Alex Warwood, an environmental scientist in Philadelphia Water’s Office of Watersheds who oversees the Aesthetic Maintenance Program through a partnership with PowerCorpsPHL, says the hidden subsurface components don’t get the same attention as the lush, highly visible “living landscapes” of surface components seen in tools like tree trenches and rain gardens.

But without these access points, which are unique to Green City, Clean Waters installations, Warwood says much of the infrastructure wouldn’t operate properly. The GSIMN team routinely removes the covers and uses cameras to inspect pipes that distribute stormwater evenly throughout tree trenches and other green tools. If something is blocking the pipes and preventing the infrastructure from operating properly, crews will flush the system or use powerful vacuum hoses to restore the flow. Most structures get cleaned out at least once a year.

"The subsurface components of many of our GSI systems are sort of the underdogs of our green tools," says Warwood, "and they are absolutely critical for them to work. The new lids help promote Philadelphia Water's green infrastructure, and they help the average resident to see that there’s much more to GSI than just the plants on the surface. Some of the most important functions are happening where people can’t see them, and these covers are a really cool way to draw attention to that."

So, next time you're out for a walk and you notice one of these new designs on the sidewalk, take a look at the green infrastructure around you—this is your invitation to uncover the green and discover Green City, Clean Waters!

PowerCorpsPHL Gets a POTUS Shout-out

Juan Matos of the PowerCorpsPHL GSI Maintenance Program with President Obama on July 14.
Juan Matos of the PowerCorpsPHL GSI Maintenance Program with President Obama on July 14.

We’re always talking about what a great relationship we have with PowerCorpsPHL, and we love to point out when the young Philadelphians who help maintain Green City, Clean Waters infrastructure enrich their lives and even turn the experience into jobs in the green industry.

But here’s one benefit we never could have imagined: Meeting the President of the United States.

That’s exactly what happened to Assistant Crew Leader Juan Matos of the PowerCorpsPHL GSI (Green Stormwater Infrastructure) Maintenance Program when President Obama visited the city for this week’s NAACP convention.

Matos, a 23-year-old dad from North Philadelphia, is in his second term of service as an AmeriCorps member with PowerCorpsPHL and joined the program in September 2014.
He didn’t find out that he was going to meet with Obama, who wanted to learn more about successful re-entry programs for those who have been incarcerated, until Sunday night.

Apparently, the president was impressed with Matos' bio, which PowerCorps provided. For Matos, it all came as a pretty big shock.

“It was, like, out of the blue,” says Matos. “I had no clue what he was going to say or what I was going to ask him.”

During their Tuesday meeting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Matos says Obama put him at ease with a relaxed conversation.

“We talked about what it was like for me after I got out and about my family, and how PowerCorps helped me out and gave me guidance and skills I didn’t have before,” says Matos.

Still, he was in for another surprise during Obama’s speech: Matos, PowerCorps, and green jobs got a special mention.

Watch a clip of his comments about the program and Matos here:

Obama’s words, Matos says, really stood out.

“I was impressed that he was really paying attention to what I said, because he brought up details of the things we talked about in his speech,” Matos reflected on Wednesday.

In particular, Obama mentioned that Matos’ biggest motivation to succeed—his daughters, Kyleigh, 3, and Jaylianis, 5—was something he could relate to as a dad of two girls.

Obama also talked about the value of the green jobs training that PowerCorps provides:

"[Juan] was given an opportunity to get trained on green jobs that are helping the environment, but also gave him a marketable skill," Obama told the audience.

Matos agreed with the president, noting that he’s learned much through the program that will help him when he begins a job search.

"Before, I didn’t know what GSI even was,” says Matos. “Now, I work with a crew that does maintenance all over the city on bumpouts, rain gardens, tree trenches, all of that, making sure they work properly. I’ve gained a lot of skills; I got brotherhood, I got a mentor. PowerCorps is a great program for helping people."

Today, Matos is confident that he can have a bright future. But before he learned how to work with green infrastructure, that future wasn't so clear.  

“If it wasn’t for PowerCorps, I could have been back out on the street. They helped with school, they kept me working. They gave me a real second chance.”

To learn more about PowerCorpsPHL and how they help us maintain Green City, Clean Waters, vist their Service Partners page.

Green Tools: Six Ways They Can Make a Climate Changed-Future a Little Less Scary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a cool new infographic out showing how the green stormwater infrastructure we use in Green City, Clean Waters helps to reduce the impact of climate change by making Philadelphia a more resilient city.

The EPA graphic focuses on urban areas and paints a grim picture of the future awaiting cities as the effects of climate change intensify in the coming decades. Considering the already staggering cost of flooding events stemming from super-storms like Hurricane Sandy, the projection of a 30 percent increase in annual flood costs is especially troubling. 

But there's good news, too: we already have the some of the tools we need to help fight the negative impacts highlighted. And, thanks to Green City, Clean Waters—a plan that the EPA approved back in 2011—Philadelphia is ahead of the curve when it comes to using green as a tool for making our neighborhoods safer, more livable places. 

We like to point out how our green approach makes our city a better place right now, but it's also about looking out for future generations. That's why Philadelphia Water is taking climate change seriously and designed Green City, Clean Waters to be flexible and adaptive in the face of environmental challenges that range from more intense storms to longer and more intense droughts.  

Check out the EPA infographic here:

GSI for Climate Resiliency: An EPA Infographic
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

When you look at numbers like those from the Burnsville study—a 93 percent reduction in damaging stormwater runoff—it's easy to see how having more rain gardens and other green tools will be a real asset in a future where we see more and more instense rain events. It's just part of larger long-term plans Philadelphia Water and the city have for addressing climate change, but Green City, Clean Waters will play a role in addressing those challenges over the next few decades. 

Want to keep up on Green City, Clean Waters news and events and learn more about sustainability initiatives at Philadelphia Water? Click here and sign up for our monthly newsletter now! 

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