Inlet Cleaning

Philadelphia Water, On the Water: Boats a Powerful Tool in Fight Against Litter

Left to Right: Lance Butler, Dimitri Forte, Declan Patterson, and Richard Anthes. Philadelphia Water’s Watersheds Field Services Group deploys a fleet of three small boats to reach trash in waterways that others can’t. Credit: Brian Rademaekers.
Left to Right: Lance Butler, Dimitri Forte, Declan Patterson, and Richard Anthes. Philadelphia Water’s Watersheds Field Services Group deploys a fleet of three small boats to reach trash in waterways that others can’t. Credit: Brian Rademaekers.   

During a typical litter-hunting trip in early June, Philadelphia Water’s Lance Butler was operating the department’s new 20-foot workboat along the banks of the Schuylkill River just below the Fairmount Water Works. Edging the bow of the craft just close enough to the rocky embankment, Butler made it possible for his three crew members to scoop up the otherwise unreachable trash that peppered the water and shoreline.

This was the workboat’s maiden voyage, and it was already proving to be an invaluable tool in the department’s fight against floating litter.

The activity attracted the attention of a young man sitting on a nearby bench. Within a few minutes, he approached the boat and asked Butler a question—could he have a trash bag?

“What for?” Butler asked.

“To pick up trash,” the man replied. “It’s such a beautiful park.”

An hour later, Butler and his crew—referred to within department as the “Watersheds Field Services Group,” and, less formally, as “the skimming guys”—were on the opposite side of the river, their boat growing ever-more crowded with bags containing the typical flotsam of plastic bottles and bags, Styrofoam cups and other debris that had washed into the breathtaking waters below Fairmount Dam.

On the other side of the river, the spontaneous volunteer was still at it, his bag of litter now bulging to the point of overflowing.

“That guy,” Butler said, “is amazing.”

Through Rain, Sleet, Snow and Papal Madness, We'll Be Here

The stars of Philadelphia Water's customer service call center: They'll be on the line 24/7 during the Pope's visit. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
The stars of Philadelphia Water's customer service call center: they'll be on the line 24/7 during the Pope's visit, as will all essential staff who respond to customer needs. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

With Pope Francis just days away from his historic visit to the City of Brotherly Love, you can almost feel the excitement in the air. Like other city agencies and utilities, we've been engaged in months of planning to make sure the visit goes smoothly.

But, just as important, we want to make sure our level of service to every customer remains intact throughout the Pope's stay. Because providing clean, fresh water is the most essential service a city can provide, we never take a breakand we'll be on the clock, as always, 24/7 throughout the World Meeting of Families.

That means water main and sewer repair crews and equipment will be on hand to respond to an emergency anywhere in the city. And it means that our dedicated customer service staff will be on hand to answer any calls to our water help hotline, which you can reach by dialing 215 685 6300. Even our inlet cleaning crews will be on hand to make sure trash and other debris isn't blocking stormwater from the sewers. (For the latest official Pope-in-Philly info from the city, you can visit a special Phila.gov page set up for the occasion by clicking here.)

Now, a little bit about what you can do. If you're a Francis fan, you probably already know that one of his first major statements, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, centered entirely on environmental concerns. In that letter, he specifically calls out our "throwaway culture" and its impact on the earth.

Like any event of this size, the Pope's visit to our city is likely to generate a huge amount of waste. In fact, one company has already pledged to donate 1 million 12 oz. disposable water bottles. It's a generous gesture and we know how important it is for people to stay hydrated, but since studies show that about 70% of plastic bottles never make it to the recycling plant, that means some 700,000 of those bottles very well may become litter that could end up in our rivers and parks and will still be polluting the earth generations from now. Even if we manage to recycle every bottle, there's also the air pollution associated with producing, delivering and refrigerating bottled water.

If you are one of the many people heading downtown for papal events, consider doing our planet a favor by using a refillable bottle that takes advantage of a modern miracle: cheap, safe and abundant tap water. Philadelphia Water will be providing water connections for event organizers, who will offer filling stations. It might seem like a small gesture in the fight against our throwaway culture, but if everyone takes the pledge to ditch disposable bottles, it will have a big impact.

Want to help spread the word about using refillable bottles? We created a funny Pope meme you can share on Facebook and Twitter with the #PopeInPhilly and #CleanWatersPHL hashtags:

The Pope thinks reusable bottles are a great idea!  PS: Keep an eye on this blog for more on the Pope's Philadelphia Water reusable bottle. It's a real thing we'll be talking about soon!

UPDATE: Samantha Phillips, director of the City of Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management, has announced a new text alert system specifically for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit.

“If you are planning to attend this historic event, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts for the Pope’s visit to get real time information of real importance,” says Phillips. “Having piece of mind is part of enjoying the event.”

Enrolling is easy. Text “papalvisit” to 888777 and you will be registered. It’s that simple, and that important.

Alerts will be sent through the duration of the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit. Message and data rates may apply depending upon your plan with your service provider.

In addition, the City of Philadelphia offers ReadyPhiladelphia, which allows subscribers to sign up for emergency or weather alerts by text, email, and phone or the Everbridge app. ReadyPhiladephia is available year round to those who live and work in the city. Subscribers can get alerts for up to five locations in the city that are important to them. To sign up for ReadyPhiladelphia, go to www.phila.gov/ready and click on “Sign Up For Alerts”.

Now TRENDING ON TWITTER:

Why customer satisfaction is important and what we’re doing to improve it

A collaborative effort of various associations representing the U.S. water and wastewater sector called WaterEUM cuts to the core of why high customer satisfaction is the most important goal for utilities like PWD:

Customer satisfaction is important to water utilities to minimize customer complaints and associated costs, maintain customer goodwill, and increase customer support for utility improvement initiatives.

But most importantly, improving customer satisfaction is just the right thing to do. PWD’s employees are also customers, ratepayers and residents of Philadelphia so we know how important it is to get this right. In our budget testimony to City Council this week we shared some results from changes we put in place in the past year to improve customer service.

By adding cloud technology to the PWD call center in 2013 we significantly increased the number of calls taken each business day. We can now track all calls and use a customer call back system to ensure that every customer gets the chance to speak directly with a representative. The centers are showing significantly fewer abandoned calls and shorter customer hold times: an average wait time of 39 seconds—30% shorter than the average among call centers across all industries (56 seconds). And we continue to work to make that wait time even shorter.

Syndicate content