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Pacu In Pottstown

Large Pacu at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Photo: I, Omnitarian

Here's another fish story via the Schuylkill Action Network: An article in last weekend's Mercury reported that a 22-year-old fisherman caught a pacu—a South American freshwater fish related to the piranha—in the Schuylkill River near Pottstown on Aug. 1. The angler, Josh Carmean, initially thought he'd hooked a two-pound catfish until he examined the fish's teeth.

"Pacu and piranha have similar teeth, but their jaw alignments are different. The piranha also have pointed, razor-sharp teeth with a pronounced underbite, while pacu have squarer and more straighter teeth with a less severe underbite. Also, sources reveal, the pacu are much larger than piranha, some reaching up to 60 pounds or more in the wild.

Pacus are also known to 'eat anything,' according to Deep Sea World zoological manager Matthew Kane. Though not the aggressive carnivores like piranha, the pacu's crushing jaw system can be hazardous. They are often sold to home aquarium owners as 'vegetarian piranhas.'

The pacu may have gotten a bad name as a result of owners illegally releasing them into wild waterways. Once in those waterways, like the Schuylkill River, they can dominate other species vying for available food and other resources, even displace some by introducing exotic parasites or diseases."

Pottstown is upstream from Philadelphia on the Schuylkill, the same river that will host the 2011 Philly Fun Fishing Fest on September 10. Did we mention that registration is free and now open? Might there be a special award to the angler who lands a pacu?

Registration For The 2011 Philly Fun Fishing Fest Is Now Open!

posted in

Dust off those rods and reels, people—registration is now open for the 2011 Philly Fun Fishing Fest. The event is Saturday, September 10, 2011 from 7 - 11 a.m. on the banks of the Schuylkill River. It is free and no fishing license is required; fishing gear will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There will be prizes.

Click here for a flyer and map.

Click here to go directly to the registration page.

More info and hype to come over the next month.

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.

New Video: 2011 Drinking Water Scholastic Awards

Photo: Schuylkill Action Network

In May, the Schuylkill Action Network held its 2011 Drinking Water Scholastic Awards at the Upper Perkiomen School District Education Center. Students (not pictured above, although those are actual children and that is the Schuylkill in the background) presented the various ways in which they're doing their part to keep the Schuylkill River free of pollutants and helping to protect a precious source of drinking water; projects ranged from construction of rain gardens and riparian buffers to water testing and educational videos.

Watch the new three-minute video of the event here.

In The News: Water, Watersheds Everywhere

A member of the Miss Rockaway Armada at the Schuylkill launch site (Photo: Tod Seelie)

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer featured a trifecta of water and watershed-related news:

On the front page, reporter Sandy Bauers details the detective work the Philadelphia Water Department is doing to track down the source of iodine-131 levels observed in the Wissahickon in the spring. The prime suspect? Iodine-131 that is present in medication used to treat thyroid cancer. Full article

"Officials from the Water Department, the EPA, and the DEP emphasize that the levels detected are tiny and don't constitute a public health threat. Philadelphia's drinking water meets standards for radioactivity and remains safe, they say. Even if it was getting into streams above Philadelphia, iodine-131 has such a short half-life - half the radioactivity is gone after eight days - that amounts would be much reduced by the time they were swept downstream.

But, said Chris Crockett, the Water Department's deputy commissioner of environmental services, 'we don't want any iodine-131 in our water. I don't want it there for me or my kids and my family. And I don't want it for our neighbors and citizens.'"

Be sure to read our Iodine-131 Q&A for PWD's official word on the topic. Once again, Philadelphia's drinking water is safe to drink.

Elsewhere, a group of artists known as the Miss Rockaway Armada is building a salvaged-materials flotilla/performance space for a September art installation in the Schuylkill and Delaware. Commissioned by the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the installation features music, theatrical performances and ... oh, just go here and try to figure it out. Full article

"'This project is more about reinterpreting the water space in Philadelphia,' [said Tod Seelie]. 'The experience of breaking the shore-to-water barrier and actually being in the water has a lot more implications than you might think.'"

And finally, a Colorado environmental technologies firm is unveiling a demonstration project on a Lancaster County farm that seeks to reduce the amount of nitrogen from cow waste. Excess nitrogen levels in groundwater and rivers due to agricultural waste has a damaging effect on the Chesapeake Bay. Full article

'"There is a real pressing need to find alternative ways of handling manure," said Jan Jarrett, president of PennFuture, a statewide environmental advocacy group.

The federal Clean Water Act in the last 40 years has reduced so-called point source pollution or effluent from factories and sewage treatment plants. But farming, which was exempt from the act, increasingly has been responsible for more pollution, damaging waterways by flooding them with nutrients.

When manure is used as fertilizer, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other potentially damaging chemicals eventually (often in about two years) make their way to groundwater and streams, and to bigger waters such as the Chesapeake.'

Coming Attraction: Hidden River Expedition

Lewis & Clark. Ferdinand Magellan. Lord Whimsy. Only the last man in that list can be called a true "re-explorer." From August 4-6, the author and artist Allen Crawford (who sometimes operates under the name Lord Whimsy) will embark on a 40-mile kayak trip from Mt. Holly, NJ, to Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia. Dubbed the Hidden River Expedition ("Schuylkill" is Dutch for "hidden river"), Crawford will be documenting his adventure via text, photos and video at We'll be tuning in and furiously hotlinking during those three days, as this expedition is a true testament to the recovery of Philadelphia-area waterways and the importance of healthy rivers and streams. Crawford plans to pay particular attention to the rivers' recovering wildlife population (beavers, sturgeon and oysters) among other attractions in and along the water.

For more info, here is the press release and itinerary. After the jump, a photo of Crawford's Steve Zissou-esque Hidden River Expedition patch.

Pottsville Says: No Dumping!

Beginning next week, storm drains in Pottsville—approximately 120 river miles upstream of Philadelphia—will be marked with the "No Dumping! Drains To River" stickers that have been familiar sights in Philly since 2000. Preventing litter from entering storm drains—whether in Pottsville or Philadelphia—helps improve water quality in the Schuylkill and, eventually, the Delaware. The Pottsville Republican Herald reported on the storm drain sticker initiative in a July 18 article:

"As Megan Blackmon, outreach and programs coordinator for Schuylkill Headwaters Association, walked along Pottsville's Mahantongo Street on Friday morning, she noticed some litter in the storm drain at the intersection of 20th Street. A paper cup from a fast-food restaurant. A plastic spoon. The remains of a napkin. She wondered what the cup had held. Soda? A milk shake? Whatever it was, if it went down the drain it would be headed toward the Schuylkill River.

Inspired by an effort in Philadelphia to stop dumping into drains like these, Blackmon and a group of volunteers from the Schuylkill YMCA in Pottsville are planning to post 150 plastic stickers 6 inches in diameter on streets near them."

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary has more info on the Storm Drain Marking Program.

Watershed History: Roxborough Pumping Station Demolition

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

Roxborough Pumping Station, 1961

Roxborough Pumping Station, 2010

As of July 7, the old Roxborough Pumping Station was in the process of being demolished. This piece of the city’s water supply history had been out of commission since 1962, and as shown in the color photos (taken by city photographer Richard Goldey in December 2010), it had lately become a graffiti-covered ruin. The black and white photos were taken in 1961, just before the plant was taken out of service. The high roofline once accommodated huge coal-fired steam pumping engines, which were replaced by the much smaller but much more efficient electric pumps shown in the 1961 photo below. Even in its derelict state, the former grandeur of this public building, designed to be both functional as well as beautiful, is still apparent. 

Interior of Roxborough Pumping Station, 1961

Interior of Roxborough Pumping Station, 2010

Related: Read our recent post on the Roxborough Water Works.

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."

Curb Appeal: Queen Lane Stormwater Bumpouts

Philadelphia's first stormwater bumpouts on Queen Lane in East Falls are in bloom. Stormwater bumpouts are just one of the Philadelphia Water Department’s green stormwater infrastructure tools to reduce runoff and prevent combined sewer overflows into our rivers and streams. Runoff from the street is diverted into these landscaped curb extensions, where it infiltrates into the soil instead of entering our storm sewers. Aside from managing stormwater, bumpouts also help to calm traffic, and when located at crosswalks they keep pedestrians safer by reducing the street crossing distance.

Each bumpout is custom designed on a site-by-site basis; the six Queen Lane structures are each 8 feet deep and range in length from 24 feet to 80 feet (the bumpout pictured above measures 8' by 60'). Each bumpout is planted with a mix of native grasses, perennials and trees, and the entire system manages the first inch of runoff from an acre of drainage area. That means these bumpouts manage between 800,000 and 900,000 gallons of runoff each year.

Locate the Queen Lane stormwater bumpouts on a map after the break, and view PWD's in-design bumpouts and other green infrastructure projects on the Big Green Map.

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