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News Stream |
NOTICE: has been archived.

The archive will be available at for approximately one year (through September 2020). If you use or are responsible for content here that is not yet available elsewhere, please contact the PWD Digital Team.

News Stream

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PWD Answers: What's on the Mysterious Island in the Middle of the Schuykill?

The Philly Watersheds Blog would like to take a siesta from the incessant posting of spokesdog photos to direct your attention toward a recent post on City Paper's Naked City blog. Writer Isaiah Thompson asks PWD's Chris Crockett and Adam Levine: What's the story behind the little island in the middle of the Schuylkill?

Peter's Island, as the little mound turns out to be named (even on Google Maps), has left a surprisingly faint trail in Philly history, considering how long it's been there. Illustrations of it date back at least to the early 1800s (in them, it looks considerably less ominous than it does now). By the mid-20th century, the island had actually ceased to be an island at all, according to Adam Levine, a historical consultant for the Philadelphia Water Department who runs the website A mountain of sludge — the remnants, Levine says, of a century of coal mining that had washed its way to Philly — had simply extended the river's western bank all the way to the island. It remained a peninsula until some time in the 1950s, when the western channel was dredged back into existence, and the sludge pumped 11 miles southwest to create land in Eastwick, near the airport.

Thompson also discovers firsthand the large population of xenophobic geese living on the island. Check out the whole story  here.

National Geographic: Philadelphia Cleans Up Stormwater With Innovative Program

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Porous paving on Percy Street in South Philadelphia. It looks just like regular asphalt. We know.

An article in yesterday's National Geographic daily news lauds the Philadelphia Water Department's Green City, Clean Waters plan and makes some interesting points about Philly's tradition of innovation in water management. Did you know porous paving was invented at the Franklin Institute? Writer Paul McRandle reminds us:

Philadelphia's history of water-related invention extends back at least to Ben Franklin's swim fins and glass armonica, but the city is less well known for an invention that will soon cover a sizable portion of it—permeable paving. Developed at the city's Franklin Institute in 1977, permeable (also known as "porous" or "pervious") paving provides a surface tough enough to bear traffic while allowing water to seep through its matrix and into the soil, eliminating surface pooling.

An integral part of Philadelphia's green streets plan, permeable paving will replace 15 square miles of impervious paving within the city's CSO area in a little over 20 years. As [PWD Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Services Chris] Crockett notes, that's the equivalent of more than a thousand city blocks.

The city is also testing a variety of designs for other street elements—including 20 different types of tree trenches. Above ground, these look no different from street tree plantings elsewhere, but below the paving the structure is engineered to hold water to nourish the trees and allow some to enter the ground beneath.

Read the whole article here.

In Print: 2012 Drinking Water Quality Report

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Around here, the arrival of a new Drinking Water Quality Report is met with the same kind of enthusiasm that more normal people might reserve for, say, a new Hunger Games novel or some unpublished J.D. Salinger manuscripts. But even if the report isn't your idea of a page turner (and really, there are only 16 pages to turn), you're certain to learn some interesting facts about the water you drink every day. It's all here: Where your water comes from, how it's treated, what it contains and how PWD is protecting the rivers and streams that provide our drinking water.

Copies are being sent in the mail to every PWD customer, but you don't have to wait: Download it now. We're taking our copy to read on the beach this weekend.

News Stream: EPA Grant to Make Nebinger Greener

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In case you missed it: A cover story in the South Philadelphia Review reported on the grant that will help fund green stormwater management at Nebinger Elementary School:

A revamped playground area, an outdoor classroom complete with gardens and a campus-style reading space, rain barrels, a tree infiltration system and the implementation of porous pavements are just some of the innovative green infrastructures planned for George W. Nebinger School, 601 Carpenter St., and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Nebinger, as well as other sections of Bella Vista and a Queen Village playground, received word April 26 that it was the recipient of a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, with a matching amount from the Philadelphia Water Department and the nonprofit Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, which covers the ecosystem spanning from central New Jersey to southern Delaware.

Read the whole article here.

The Clean Water Bargain: Cost of Service Utility

With the Philadelphia Water Department proposing a rate change for 2013, we're running a series of informational posts to explain how water rates are set, the terminology behind the rate setting process, and the investments PWD is making in our city's infrastructure, health and environment.

We use the phrase "cost of service utility" often to describe the financial structure of the Philadelphia Water Department. It basically means that we are an organization that provides a critical resource for which we charge a price—but only enough of a price to pay for our expenses and the debts we have incurred to finance the construction and repair of our sewers, water lines, treatment plants and stormwater management improvements.

We can’t call ourselves a non-profit because that would imply that we are some kind of private company, which we are not. We are a part of the Philadelphia city government. (It's the Philadelphia Water Department, not the Philadelphia Water Company.) But essentially, we operate as a non-profit, which means we are entirely focused on delivering the highest quality service that we can at the lowest possible price, making our customers happy and protecting the local environment. This is in contrast with some privately owned utilities or companies which seek to charge the highest price they can in order to maximize profits and make investors happy.

The Philly 500: City Begins Speeding Toward 500 New Green Acres by 2015

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Last week, Mayor Nutter and city officials gathered with students and neighbors at William Dick Elementary School in North Philadelphia to kick off the Green 2015 Action Plan, an ambitious initiative to add 500 new acres of parkland. The news outlets tell the story:

Philadelphia Inquirer:

The partnership, which includes the Philadelphia Water Department, the city Department of Parks and Recreation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Mural Arts Program, hopes to locate at least a patch of parkland — grass, trees, perhaps a few park benches  — within a 10-minute walk of anywhere in the city.

Philadelphia Daily News:

The announcement kicks off the next phase of the “Green 2015” plan that “de-paves” many of these acres of concrete and green them. The benefits are numerous and long-term: a healthier population, and a more environmentally sound and beautiful city. The plan relies heavily on community input, and de-paving, greening and overseeing these new green spaces can actually help build community.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

"Today, a wide-reaching vision to link Philadelphia's young people to an outdoors environment is unveiled," [DCNR Deputy Secretary John] Giordano said at the school event. "And this vision hits the triple bottom line: improving environmental quality, neighborhood economic value, and the community's social fabric."

ABC 6:

Inquirer: City Life's Better with Fewer Paved Surfaces

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An editorial in today's Philadelphia Inquirer both lauds the city's plan to depave 500 acres of impervious surface and leaks the news that a groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Thursday to kick off the second phase of the Green 2015 action plan. A partnership of several organizations—the Philadelphia Water Department, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Trust for Public Land and the Mural Arts Foundation—will implement the effort, which has both recreational and environmental benefits:

The Water Department’s role is significant. Replacing pavement with planted and porous surfaces will pay environmental dividends by reducing the polluted runoff that ends up in streams and rivers when it’s not backing up into homeowners’ basements.

Pictured above is the city's first depaving project, completed in Frankford last week.

They Really Like Us: PWD Wins 2012 U.S. Water Prize

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We almost forgot to pat ourselves on the back for this, but in late April the Philadelphia Water Department was one of six recipients of the 2012 U.S. Water Prize. The award is facilitated by the Clean Water America Alliance, and it recognizes organizations that improve our water's future through creative strategies and cutting-edge approaches. We're honored that PWD's Green City, Clean Waters plan fit the bill. (And if you're curious, the physical prize is a lovely blue-and-white plate. The commissioner has instructed us to not eat off it.) Below, a video that gives some background on each of the six recipients of the 2012 award:

A Shad State of Affairs

Photo: Emma Lee/NewsWorks

Two shad posts in a row? It's a shad shad shad shad world. [Please make the shad puns stop. Thanks—ed.] As the peak of the shad spawning season arrives, WHYY's NewsWorks has a very informative article (and great photos) about the Fairmount fish ladder, including interviews with PWD aquatic biologists Lance Butler and Joe Perillo:

Historically, the shad traveled as far as 90 miles upriver from Philadelphia, past Pottsville, Pa., in the Schuylkill River system to spawn. In colonial times, shad dominated the Schuylkill's ecosystem and shaped life in Philadelphia. "Many families relied on the protein of shad to get them through the winter. They would salt barrels of shad, and that was their primary protein source," Perillo said. Industrial pollution and the construction of dams eventually depleted the shad population. With the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, a trickle started to return, but the Fairmount Dam blocked their way.

A quick note on shad and colonial times: Many sources mention that George Washington fed his troops shad from the Schuylkill River during the Revolutionary War. A previous post from last year—We've Been Shad (that was a pre-existing shad pun and is therefore not a punishable offense, right?)—calls this item into question.

TV Guidance: Watch Green City, Clean Waters Documentary on WHYY This Month

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Set your DVRs: WHYY TV-12 will be airing the Green City, Clean Waters mini-documentary on Thursday, April 26 (5:30 p.m.) and Sunday, April 29 (2:00 p.m.). This 30-minute program explains the stormwater management issues facing Philadelphia and how PWD is implementing green infrastructure to help improve our local waterways and provide other benefits to the city. A short preview:

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