Yorktown Green Streets Project Coming Soon

stormwater planter
Yorktown, a small residential neighborhood in North Philadelphia just south of Temple University (and once home to Gospel and Rock and Roll legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe!) will soon have one mile of bike lanes, two bus shelters, wider pedestrian islands, new ADA ramps and over 25 specially designed stormwater planters that will manage rainfall from the surrounding street. These upgrades are part of a project called Yorktown Green and Complete Streets, which emerged out of the planning process for Yorktown 2015, a five year action plan led by the Yorktown CDC.

PWD heard through this extensive planning process (over 260 residents participated!) that residents were particularly concerned with the maintenance of their unique, historic public spaces—a series of urban courtyard’s and cul-de-sac’s—and wanted to make them greener. Looking to invest in projects that not only manage stormwater but also improve the quality of life, PWD developed a project that would repair ADA ramps and install stormwater planters along 13th and 12th Streets. When the project proved too expensive to build, PWD began looking for grant opportunities to make the project more affordable.

In 2014, PWD expanded the project, committing to installing both bus shelters and extending bike lanes, and applied to both the Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation and of Community and Economic Development for funding from the Multimodal Trust Fund. Yorktown Green and Complete Streets was one of 86 winners awarded money from the $84 million dollar fund and received over $800,000 for the project.

With the additional funding, the Yorktown Green and Complete Streets project is slated to break ground sometime in summer/fall 2015. To learn more, check out Flying Kite’s recent article about the project.

And check out Sister Rosetta Tharpe! Sometimes called the “Godmother of Rock and Roll,” she sang gospel music accompanied by an electric guitar and influenced artists such as Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. An historical marker notes her Yorktown residence at 11th and Master streets. 

We thought her song "Didn't It Rain" was most fitting for story!  

PWD Director of Laboratory Services to EPA: Update Drinking Water Standards!

Water at the Bureau of Laboratory Sercives - PWD

Here at PWD, we have some of the nation's foremost thinkers and practitioners on water safety and quality.

One of those is Gary Burlingame, our Director of the Bureau of Laboratory Services. Gary oversees a staff of 120 people and an annual budget exceeding $10 million focused on drinking water, source water, wastewater, sediment, sludge, and more. He is a thought leader in the industry, widely published on the topic of the sensory aspects of drinking water—what you see, taste and smell in your water—having written about the topic for more than 25 years. He recently co-authored a report in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science and Technology, with Virginia Tech Professor Andrea Dietrich, calling for the EPA to improve its 50-year-old purity standards to catch up with what today’s technology allows us to detect and treat.

The report calls out the EPA for having outdated standards that don’t match advances in sensory science, changes in treatment practices, and modern attitudes and health expectations. It urges the EPA to review and rethink what are known as “secondary maximum contaminant levels” which provide guidance on the color, odor and other characteristics of drinking water not directly associated with health risk but still very important to the consumer. 

According to Burlingame and Dietrich, the EPA’s secondary contaminant standards are designed “to be a viable assessment of consumer acceptability and a means to instill confidence in tap water.” If consumers judge water that meets these standards as unacceptable, then it’s time for the standards to change.

PWD is proud to lead the way on drinking water quality. Burlingame’s work is one of many reasons why PWD has consistently been recognized with EPA Partnership for Safe Drinking Water awards for providing drinking water at purity standards higher than required by federal law. For us, the opinion of our customers about the quality of our water is a priority.

You can read more about Burlingame’s work with Professor Dietrich on Virginia Tech’s website or check out the report in its entirety

London Councillor Takes Note of Green City, Clean Waters

Thames River
Thames River, London. Photo by Matt Buck. 

In a letter to the editor of The Economist (third one from the top), Councillor Harry Phibbs of London's Hammersmith and Fulham Borough responds to their September article "London's Sewers, Smelling Sweet" about the Thames Tideway Tunnel. He makes a point about using green, natural stormwater infrastructure solutions by referencing Philadelphia’s “better, cheaper alternative of green infrastructure that soaks up the rainwater in various ways to stop it causing sewage overflows in the first place.” Of course he's referring to Green City, Clean Waters. (We guess this glowing praise means they’ve gotten over the role
Philadelphia played in that whole revolution thing.)

Here at PWD, we think any investment in infrastructure is worthy and applaud
London’s commitment to reduce sewage overflow into the Thames. In fact, we’re making similar investments in “hard infrastructure” with projects like the recently completed stormwater storage basin unit at Venice Island while also continuing our commitment to green infrastructure. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an “either or” choice. We can (and should) make investments in new pipes as well as new green stormwater infrastructure like tree trenches and rain gardens.

With that said, we are proud of the triple bottom line approach of Green City, Clean Waters. Investment in green infrastructure provides benefits that go beyond simply reducing combined sewer overflows--it also creates social benefits and is good for the economy. For every dollar we spend, we want to provide the biggest return and benefit to the public as well as the environment. Our hope is that green infrastructure, unlike "hard" or "gray" infrastructure, creates a system that will last as long as nature itself. Thanks to Councillor Phibbs for recognizing us for it!

2015 Green City, Clean Waters Art Contest seeking next great Philly Street Artist!

Street art by Faruq Adger
Storm drain art by Faruq Adger, 5th grade, Germantown Friends School. Photo by Shaun Bailey, courtesty of the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary.

Calling the next Banksy or Steve Powers, a.k.a. ESPO!

Philadelphia is a city filled with street art. In fact, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in the country and their motto is “…art ignites change.” We agree and we’re looking for some aspiring young artists to create street art that will help us spread the word that pollution entering our storm drains can end up in our rivers.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is now accepting entries on behalf of the Philadelphia Water Department for its Green City, Clean Waters Art Contest! The deadline for entries is February 28, 2015. A brochure with all of the contest rules and specs for the pictures and videos can be found by clicking on this link.

Students in grades K-12 can enter by creating a drawing and/or video showing others how to stop polluted water from entering local storm drains.

Last year’s first-place winner—Esme Fa Harrison from Germantown Friends School—was featured on WHYY’s Newsworks.org after her creation was turned into street art near a Germantown Avenue stormwater inlet. This year’s first-place winner will get to see their artwork digitally enhanced and enlarged to be placed in the streets of Philadelphia, reminding everyone that only rain should go in the storm drain.  Please encourage a student you know to enter for a shot at his or her own street art fame!

Other winning drawings will be made into advertisements used on SEPTA buses, featured in a free calendar in the spring, and posted along with winning videos on the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds, and other sponsors’ websites. 

Winning individuals and teams will have a chance at gift cards of up to $100 in value, a variety of art supplies for their schools, framed certificates, and a contest calendar featuring their artwork. Teachers of winning students will each receive $50 gift cards. The first three schools or organizations to submit over 100 entries will receive $100 gift cards.

Cold Weather Tips from PWD

With temperatures dipping into the single digits this week, it’s a great time to share our cold weather tips for winterizing your water system. Early action can help you avoid costly repairs to your pipes and water meter. Here are our tips to keep out the cold:

1. Identify the location of the shut-off valves for your water main, usually near the water meter. In emergencies, use the house-side shutoff valve to shut off your water supply.

2. Keep water meter above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. When cold air blows on a pipe, it is at risk of freezing. Reduce that risk by repairing or replacing broken windows, covering windows with plastic and caulking windows near water meters and pipes.

4. Wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas, like your basement. Pay close attention to pipes near exterior walls, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
5. In extremely cold weather, let water run overnight at a trickle. Moving water will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
6. Disconnect garden hoses and winterize the outdoor faucet. 


If you plan to be away from home or own a property that is vacant for an extended period of time,  drain and winterize your home plumbing system. 

The first sign of freezing pipes is reduced water flow from a faucet, so check your faucets for flow and pressure before you go to sleep and again when you wake up. If you do experience low pressure and suspect your pipes are frozen, check with a neighbor to make sure the problem is isolated to your home. 

  • Do not apply direct heat to the pipes. If your pipes or water meter freeze, use a space heater or hair dryer to heat the area. 
  • Make sure the faucets is turned on so melting water can drip out.
  • After your pipes thaw, look to see if your pipes are cracked or damaged and make sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent freezing from happening again. 
  • You may want to engage the services of a licensed, registered plumber. 

  • Shut off water with the house-side water main valve near your water meter.
  • If the break is in a hot water pipe, close the valve on top of the water heater.
  • Call a licensed and registered plumber to to repair the broken pipe. 

If your pipes freeze, PWD is not responsible and is not able to help. Protecting your pipes and water meter from the cold is well worth the effort and will ensure your water flows through the winter. 

Check out this video for more. 


Keeping out the Cold from Philadelphia Water Department on Vimeo.

To get a printable, .pdf version of these tips, click here

PWD awards $8.25 million in stormwater management grants, seeks more applicants

Cardone - Stormwater Management Incentives Program
Cardone Industries, a SMIP grant winner, constructed a stormwater management system at its 60-acre Northeast Philadelphia headquarters that can capture the first 1.38 inches of rainfall per storm and store approximately 5 million gallons of stormwater on site. Photo from ISS Management. 

Meet SMIP (the Stormwater Management Incentives Program) and GARP (Greened Acre Retrofit Program), PWD’s two innovative programs that reward local businesses, institutions and other non-residential water customers financially for retrofitting their properties to divert stormwater out of our combined storm and waste water system. Together, these two programs awarded $8.25 million to four projects (3 SMIPs and 1 GARP) from July to September of 2014. These projects, representing a total of 11 properties, created 92 greened acres! A greened acre manages at least the first inch of rainfall over that acre. This puts us 92 acres closer to our goal of turning 9,500 impervious (water runs off instead of soaks in) acres into “green acres” over the course of our 25 year Green City, Clean Waters program. Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor would be so proud!

SMIP was started in January 2012 and provides grants to non-residential property owners who want to retrofit their properties to manage stormwater. Instead of simply paying higher stormwater management fees, SMIP tips the financial calculations for property owners and creates incentives to build and maintain systems that capture stormwater that would otherwise end up in our sewer system and waterways. SMIP grant recipients not only get financial assistance for the design and implementation of their systems, they will also enjoy the lower stormwater fees since their properties will be generating less runoff. 


W & W Realty Company was awarded a SMIP grant to implement green stormwater management upgrades to its commercial tenant, Dependable Distribution Services Incorporated. With the installation of three large stormwater management systems, their 35-acre site will manage more than 800,000 gallons of stormwater directly on site.

GARP came online in July 2014 and provides stormwater grants to contractors or project aggregators who can build large-scale stormwater retrofit projects across multiple properties. Our first GARP grant went to ISS Management, a stormwater solutions provider, working with eight different commercial property owners. 

To see the three projects that were awarded SMIP grants and the list of properties covered by our first GARP grant, check out this press release announcing the awards. Together, the projects will save these commercial property owners almost $400,000 per year in reduced stormwater fees!

SMIP and GARP are run in partnership with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). Applications for both SMIP and GARP can be submitted at any time and announcements will be made towards the end of each fiscal quarter. So get in now to be considered for the January to March 2015 quarter! Applications not selected in a particular round will have the opportunity to be rolled over to the next without having to resubmit.

More information about both SMIP and GARP can be found on our website. Check out PIDC’s Development and Contract Opportunities page for the grant applications.

Resolve to know our rivers better in 2015

A River Runs Through It: Philadelphia Water Skiing + Skateboarding from Jon Graham on Vimeo.

With just a few more hours in 2014, it’s time to reflect back a little on all of the great things that we’ve experienced over the past year and make our plans for 2015. A few days ago we stumbled upon the video above created by local filmmaker Jon Graham and it’s so cool that we had to share! Seeing people enjoy the Schuylkill River—strolling on the new 2,000 foot long Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, skating at Paine’s Park, waterskiing, boating, kayaking and more—is very gratifying. At PWD, we’re proud of the role we played in helping to make 2014 such a successful year for our rivers, our water and our city.  

Whether it’s our own Schuylkill River being named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year or seeing the endangered shortnose sturgeon return to the Schuylkill, 2014 was a tremendously successful year for the health of our rivers. 

We were fortunate to be a part of a great collaboration with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Manayunk community that resulted in the opening of the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. This project showed how green storm water infrastructure and a PWD stormwater storage basin unit can be seamlessly interwoven into a great neighborhood and citywide amenity. We also named our first Stormwater Pioneer and gave $8.25 million to businesses for green stormwater management practices on private property through our SMIP and GARP programs. 

And we’re especially proud of award after award after award being brought home by many of PWD’s staff. And we have to give a shout out to our 2014 Philadelphia Water Department Spokesdog Winners who help us reduce the amount of pet waste that ends up in our rivers! 

As we look ahead to 2015 (here’s our spin on the common resolutions to eat better and exercise more), we suggest you resolve to: 

1. Get outside and experience every single one of the city’s waterways and the great things to do on their banks. Whether it’s waterskiing or kayaking on the Schuylkill or running and biking alongside it; taking in another pop-up park along the Delaware; or hiking along the Wissahickon, Pennypack, Poquessing, Cobbs, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford, you’ll get exercise and relieve stress by being near the water.  

2. Drink tap water! Philadelphia’s drinking water continues to be among the nation’s cleanest, safest and most reliable. We resolve to continue that in 2015 so you can resolve to get your 8 glasses (at least!) per day and at an affordable cost. The cost of 50 glasses of water here in Philadelphia is less than a penny!

3. Do your part to keep pollution out of Philadelphia's rivers and streams.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Ralph Brooks Groundbreaking Rescheduled... Again

RESCHEDULED
The Ralph Brooks Groubdbreaking event will take place today!
Please join Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin, Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, PWD Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Urban Roots, and more as we kick off this fantastic project. 

WHAT: Ralph Brooks Groundbreaking
WHEN: Monday, December 22, 2014 at 2:30 PM
WHERE: Ralph Brooks Park, 20th and Tasker Streets

To learn more about the project, check out our earlier blog post.
A flyer for this event can be downloaded here.

Rendering of Ralph Brooks Park