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PowerCorpsPHL |
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'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.

Change Your Life, Help Protect Our Water: Apply for PowerCorpsPHL Now

Above: Paul Johnson shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro during his PowerCorpsPHL program. Photo Credit: PowerCorpsPHL
Above: Paul Johnson shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro during his PowerCorpsPHL experience. Photo Credit: PowerCorpsPHL.

The social, environmental and economic benefits we get out of having and maintaining the green infrastructure that makes up Green City, Clean Waters are a big part of why Philadelphia is taking the green approach to solving stormwater challenges. It’s what we call our “triple bottom line.”

One way we connect people with those benefits is by working with PowerCorpsPHL to train young adults in things like green infrastructure maintenance. As we've seen, that training is translating to real jobs right here in Philadelphia.

And right now, PowerCorpsPHL is looking for young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 who are committed to transforming themselves and their communities. The application period for the next round of youth closes July 3, so now is the time to act.

To find out how you or someone you know could end up working with PowerCorpsPHL and Philadelphia Water, follow this link.

Need proof the program can have a real impact? Here’s fresh testimony from three guys who did the work and now have real jobs they’re proud of:

“PowerCorpsPHL taught me a lot about the [green stormwater infrastructure] field that I’m going to be working in and gave me all the experience I need. They also hooked me up with the right people. My reference list was crazy! All the way from the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department [Howard Neukrug] down. PowerCorpsPHL prepared me to bring patience, motivation, time management, networking, and delegation to the job. I also learned how to create and maintain statistical databases, use power tools, and perform location and navigation. And my communication skills definitely improved.” Paul Johnson, Cohort 2 member and Cohort 3 Assistant Crew Leader on the GSI crew.

 Where He Is Now: Paul now works in Green Stormwater Infrastructure maintenance with the  green design firm AKRF and is studying to become a GSI engineer.

“PowerCorps was like gas for my car. They really give you the opportunity to show what you’re capable of. Whatever it is you’re good at, they pinpoint it and allow you to develop a career out of it. My original plan was to work for the Water Department, but I was allowed to be in certain situations where Mr. [Rich] Negrin [Managing Director, City of Philadelphia] was seeing my writing and speaking skills. If it wasn’t for PowerCorps, I wouldn’t be halfway to where I am now. I wasn’t even thinking about the type of work I’m doing now, let alone applying for it. PowerCorps was a life-changing opportunity.” Marcus Bullock, Cohort 2 GSI crew member, Cohort 3 PPR Assistant Crew Leader.

Where He Is Now: Marcus received a job as a speechwriter in the Managing Director’s Office during Cohort 3, and has since been promoted to Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff.

“When I first started in PowerCorps I was basically the same hard-working guy. I’m a team player regardless. I’m a basketball player—a point guard—and I want my team involved. If the team needs a leader, I can be that leader. I know my place in whatever team I’m on. Whatever I need to do to make the team strong, that’s what I do…It’s not easy to get into PowerCorps. You have to go through a third party, so a lot of the guys I know are in the predicament I was in. So first I recommend RISE and then from RISE you can get to PowerCorps. It’s a process, and a lot of people don’t want to do the process. I’ve been doing this since I’ve been home, for a year and a half. You get what you put into it.  A lot of people just want handouts, and that’s not what PowerCorps is.”Keith Williams, a Cohort 2 PPR crew member and Cohort 3 PWD crew member.

Where He Is Now: Keith has been working in the mechanics shop for PWD since early May. He’s just passed his civil service exam and hopes to one day become a crew chief.

Although the July 3 deadline is fast approaching, another round of applicants will be selected this winter and contacting a PowerCorpsPHL Recruitment Partner now can help pave the road for entry into the program. Read more about how it all works here.

Philadelphia Water and PowerCorpsPHL: ‘Perfect Pipeline’ for Green Jobs

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Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug and Philadelphia Water Environmental Scientist Alex Warwood with PowerCorpsPHL workers.
Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug and Philadelphia Water Environmental Scientist Alex Warwood with PowerCorpsPHL workers.

When we talk about Green City, Clean Waters, we like to point out that the 25-year plan has lots of benefits beyond improving our stormwater system. One of those benefits is green jobs. 

Because the plan is bringing so much green to so many parts of the city over the next two decades, it has the ability to be a major driver in creating jobs and attracting businesses tied to a 21st century green economy. 

We recently got news of a great example of that really happening when we learned that AKRF, one of the country’s largest environmental, planning and engineering consulting firms, hired five graduates of Philadelphia’s PowerCorpsPHL program, which provides job training opportunities for young adults ages 18-26. 

Philadelphia Water is proud to be a “service partner” with PowerCorpsPHL, and their recruits work with us on a daily basis to grow the reach of Green City, Clean Waters, maintain the city’s green stormwater infrastructure, and educate residents on the roles they can play in preserving our watersheds. The ultimate goal, of course, is to prepare them for careers in the world of green infrastructure, and AKRF’s hires are proof that something is working. 

Shandor Szalay, senior vice president and director of AKRF’s water resources practice, says Philadelphia Water’s PowerCorpsPHL partnership provided the firm with “the perfect pipeline” to fill a growing need created by Green City, Clean Waters. The firm manages contracts that help the city maintain the ever-growing stock of green infrastructure. 

“It’s been a great experience for us to be able to find people who live in the city and who have been involved with green infrastructure maintenance and know the system,” Szalay says. “We can give them a job with a living wage, and instead of being a job that’s week-to-week, it a career.” 

We want to congratulate all of the great people at PowerCorpsPHL for their hard work and dedication, and especially the grads who worked hard and landed jobs that are making Green City, Clean Waters even better.

PowerCorpsPHL + PWD = A Win-Win Team

What has 18 legs, eradicates garbage and debris, spreads good will wherever it goes and spends 900 hours fighting to protect our rivers?

The PWD PowerCorpsPHLTeam!

Philadelphia Water is proud to be a service partner for PowerCorpsPHL. PowerCorpsPHL is an AmeriCorps program for Philadelphians ages 18 to 26 designed to address the City of Philadelphia’s environmental stewardship, workforce development and violence prevention priorities. PowerCorpsPHL members spend 6 months in full time-time service, followed by 3 months of job placement support. Corps members work with either Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, or with the Philadelphia Water Department.

The PowerCorpsPHL program has been hugely successful since the program launched in 2013. Not only are PWD PowerCorpsPHL members making a significant impact on the water quality in our region, they are also gaining invaluable job skills, launching many of them into successful careers in the green job sector. Members that work within PWD are paired with supervisors to learn electrical and HVAC trades, building maintenance, inlet cleaning, and Green Stormwater Infrastructure maintenance. 

PWD staff and PowerCorpsPHL members 

The program is a win-win for both the participants and the service partners. Out of the 43 PowerCorpsPHL members that have served with PWD during the three cycles so far:

  • Seven joined Philadelphia Water's Apprenticeship Program to further their skills and advance their professional network.
  • Seven signed up for another 6-month term of service with PWD through PowerCorpsPHL
  • At least eight have found employment, some with PWD, some with related businesses
  • Many others are returning to school to advance their education with the goal of pursuing careers in the water industry. 

The largest set of PowerCorpsPHL members working with PWD are in our Green Infrastructure Maintenance team. They help ensure that green stormwater infrastructure, like rain gardens, tree trenches and vegetated bump-outs, are functioning properly. The current team has:

  • Been a part of 1,108 maintenance events
  • Maintained 388 stormwater managemetn sites--some multiple times!
  • Collected 80,357 lbs of garbage and other debris out of our stormwater systems

 Learn more and find out how you can get involved

A Shout-out to PowerCorpsPHL

Being the first city to introduce a program like Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia serves as a national model for many to follow. However, this dream of a sustainable green city could not be possible without the help of PowerCorpsPHL.

This exciting new program is a partnership between AmeriCorps, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia. PowerCorpsPHL builds on the initiatives of both Mayor Nutter and Governor Corbett by encouraging environmental stewardship, while building career opportunities for Philadelphia’s youth.

Active throughout the department, PWD is proud to host a number of PowerCorps members. Team “Blue Magic” supports the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Maintenance Team. This group of young men and women has done an outstanding job of maintaining the green in Philadelphia. In just over 10 weeks on the job, they have collected over 9,385 lbs. of trash and street litter (over 4 tons), 3,124 lbs. of leaves and organic debris and 2,138 lbs of construction materials from green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) across the city. These achievements are the result of over 430 hours hard work, completing over 326 work orders for PWD.

Thanks, PowerCorpsPHL!

To learn more about the PowerCorps, click here.

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