Earth Day

On Earth Day, Think About How a Water Utility Can Help Our Planet

Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system at the Northeast WPCP; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.
Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.

While the Philadelphia Water Department’s core mission is to provide our 1.5 million customers with constant access to safe, clean drinking water, a big part of doing that job involves protecting and improving our local rivers and creeks.

After all, providing top quality drinking water is a lot easier when you take care of your source water.

That simple fact makes Philadelphia Water, in many ways, an environmental institution.

Earth Day Exhibit Reveals Philly's Trash Problem

Artist Bradley Maule works on "One Man's Trash." Fairmount Water Works Photo.
Artist Bradley Maule works on his "One Man's Trash" exhibit. Fairmount Water Works photo.

Anyone who’s taken the time to enjoy the many scenic opportunities afforded by Philly’s waterways has had that moment—you’re soaking in the green and sunshine, marveling at the natural beauty of a river or stream cutting through the urban landscape. And then, some ugly piece of litter breaks the mirage, reminding you that you are, indeed, still in a very big city. One with a trash problem.

Bradley Maule, a Pennsylvania native and Philly transplant, has had that moment more times than he cares to count. Like many nature lovers, he often had the impulse to pick up litter someone else carelessly dropped while hiking along one of his favorite haunts, the Wissahickon Creek in the city’s Northwest. His distaste for the pervasive trash, though, soon morphed into a sort of obsession. Out of this obsession was born “One Man’s Trash,” the latest exhibit at our Fairmount Water Works, which opens (quite appropriately) for today’s Earth Day festivities.

The first in a series of “Culture and Conversation” events that celebrate the Water Works’ 200th anniversary, “One Man’s Trash” is the culmination of a year’s worth of trash collected by Maule during weekly walks in Wissahickon Valley Park, an 1,800-acre wooded gem with the Wissahickon Creek at its heart. The Mt. Airy resident and artist laid out his plans for the project on his website, Philly Skyline, and described his yearlong effort for readers:

Each week, once a week, for all of 2014, I went on 2-3 hour hikes, picking up all the litter I encountered. If something was too big to haul out, I made a note of it on my phone’s text app and made arrangements to remove it with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Friends of the Wissahickon, the official partners on this project.

Luckily for us, Maule drew the line at picking up “organic litter”—a distinction that means we don’t have to look at a display of rotting apple cores or bags of dog waste!

The Water Works will unveil Maule’s work, which includes infographics reflecting his meticulous tally of collected litter, during a 5:30 p.m. opening reception. The exhibit will be on display through June 26, after which all the junk he’s collected will be recycled, donated and otherwise disposed of.

"A timely exhibit for Earth Day, ‘One Man's Trash’ brings to the forefront the amount of litter accrued on land, and provides an insightful look into how our behavior truly affects our water supply," says Karen Young, executive director of Fairmount Water Works.

When asked what he wants people to take away from the exhibit, Maule says he wants to inspire “…deeper consideration for the waste we each generate” and to foster awareness “that we need to treat our parks better.” In addition to compiling all the trash, he took time to look at the broader waste tied to a specific trail-side menace: the plastic water bottle.

"One of the most common objects I encountered over the course of the year was plastic water bottles—255 of them (with 43 brand names)," Maule told us. Maule also says his focus on the Wissahickon underscored a troubling connection between littering in parks and fouling up our waterways. "Almost all of Philly's big parks — Fairmount, Wissahickon, Pennypack, Cobbs, Tacony, Poquessing—exist where they do because of watersheds," notes Maule. "Unless it's picked up and properly disposed of, litter ultimately ends up in our waterways, whether directly in a place like the Wissahickon, or after a journey from city streets through gutters and sewers."

Click here to register for the “One Man’s Trash exhibit. The event is free, but space is limited.

Earth Day Ribbon Cutting at Nebinger School

Join Mayor Michael Nutter, US EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, Councilman Mark Squilla, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent, Dr. William R. Hite Jr., Partnership for the Delaware Estuary Executive Director Jennifer Adkins, Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug and Public Officials as we celebrate a national model for stormwater management and educational programming at George W. Nebinger School.

US EPA, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, PWD and other public and community partners have teamed up with the School District of Philadelphia on a project where Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is used as a tool in the classroom, field, and laboratory, serving as a demonstration opportunity for students and the community.

The GSI systems featured at Nebinger include a rain garden, bioswale, a porous play surface, porous pavers, a below-ground basin and a landscaped border. These green tools beautify the space while helping to improve water quality and the health of our rivers. 

Join us!
Date: Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Time: 10:30 AM
Location: George W. Nebinger School, 601 Carpenter St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

To RSVP or for more information, please email Laura.Copeland@phila.gov or call 215-685-4902 

EarthFest Celebration



Friday, April 25th marked the 12th anniversary of Temple University, Ambler’s EarthFest Celebration.This campus-wide celebration of Earth Day is dedicated to spread awareness on ways of being environmental friendly and the different methods of sustainability. An ever growing list of exhibitors greeted thousands of visitors excited to learn more about our region’s sustainable programs. Particpants included the Philadelphia Zoo, PWD, Academy of Natural Sciences, and Temple University departments and student organizations!


Staff from the Water Department’s Office of Watersheds shared the idea of bringing together the City of Philadelphia with its water through the Green City, Clean Waters program.  Included in the exhibit was an activity, “Good Bugs/Bad Bugs”, to help demonstrate the crucial role insects play in testing water quality. 

Energy Awareness Festival at the Navy Yard



As part of our week-long celebration of Earth Day, PWD joined other utilities and non-profits at the Energy Awareness Festival on Thursday. Taking place on the Marine Parade Grounds at the Navy Yard, the festival included representatives from The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), and more!


As part of the event, PWD brought out our trusty, kid-friendly “Sewer in a Suitcase.” This 3D model shows how stormwater can cause an overflow of polluted water into our creeks and rivers. All the participants who visited our table learned more about Green City, Clean Waters and how each person can make a difference by doing simple things like installing a rain barrel. Happy Earth Week!

Syndicate content