Schuylkill

Do You Know What's Happening at Venice Island?

No? Come out to Main and Lock streets in Manayunk tonight at 6 p.m. and get the inside scoop along with a free scoop of ice cream. 

Cyclists in Manayunk stop to ask about the new Waterways artwork. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Cyclists stop to ask about the new Waterways artwork in Manayunk. Credit: Philadelphia Water. 

While we were working with Mural Arts to install artist Eurhi JonesWaterways, a 10-block string of colorful steppingstones in Manayunk, our public engagement team took the time to do an informal survey of people passing through the neighborhood.

During the first two weeks of May, we spoke with 113 people at Pretzel Park, on Main Street, and at Venice Island–all places now featuring the temporary street art of Waterways

What we found reinforces our motivation for creating Waterways in the first place, and shows a definitive gap between what people want for the Schuylkill River and what they know about the work being done to make that desire a reality.

First, we asked people if they knew about the Philadelphia Water improvements that debuted at Venice Island in October 2014. Those improvements include a massive stormwater basin that keeps as much as 4 million gallons of untreated water from entering the Schuylkill as well as Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center.

Of the 113 people we spoke to, just 11 said they knew about Philadelphia Water’s work at Venice Island. 

That lack of knowledge is precisely why we wanted to use art as a means of highlighting infrastructure. The work we do can be a little hard to wrap your head around if you aren’t an engineer or environmental scientist. Waterways uses compelling imagery to draw people toward the somewhat hidden grounds of Venice Island, where signs help to explain what the infrastructure–much of it shielded from view beneath the ground–is doing to make the Schuylkill a cleaner, healthier river.

And, if our informal little survey tells us anything, it’s that people really do care about making our rivers healthier places where both people and wildlife can thrive. When asked whether they support improving the health of our waterways, all 113 people said yes. People were also unanimously positive when asked if they think waterways can be incorporated into our city’s public spaces for recreation.

So, people want cleaner rivers and they want them to be a part of our recreational lives: places where we can fish, hike, go boating and more. Yet very few people seem to know what a huge public effort has been made in the pursuit of those goals.

Tonight, people will have a chance to learn about what Philadelphia Water is doing for the Schuylkill as we unveil  Waterways at a 6 p.m. ceremony and ice cream party (the treats are on us). Join us at Main and Lock streets, tour the artwork with Eurhi Jones, and educate yourself about how we’re working to make the Schuylkill the river we all want it to be.

If you can’t make it tonight, find us on Venice Island this Saturday during the PLAY Manayunk festival, and help spread the word about Philadelphia Water and Waterways to your neighbors. After all, it’s your informed support that makes fighting for the health of our rivers possible.

Follow along on social media: @PhillyH20 on Twitter  and Instagram and Facebook.com/PhillyH2O and use #phillywaterart to see what is being posted about Waterways!

Big Reveal: See 'Waterways' at Unveiling Party, PLAY Manayunk

'Waterways' will be introduced May 14, followed by PLAY Manayunk on May 16.
'Waterways' will be introduced May 14, followed by PLAY Manayunk on May 16. Credit: Tiffany Ledesma

Those walking the streets of Manayunk have probably noticed a little extra pop of color in the neighborhood, and not just from the spring foliage. Since the first week of May, the folks over at sign&design have been busy working to install over 50 pieces of temporary street art designed by local artist Eurhi Jones for our Waterways project. Created through a partnership with Mural Arts, Waterways wanders from Pretzel Park in central Manayunk down Main Street and to Venice Island, which sits between the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill River. 

It’s one of the biggest street art installations ever for Mural Arts, and the whole project will be unveiled on Thursday, May 14, with a public celebration at 6 p.m. that includes a tour with the artist and free ice cream. According to Mural Arts, the installation should survive weather and traffic conditions for 3 to 4 months, so Waterways will be a highly visible part of the Manayunk experience throughout the summer.  

So, why is a public utility like Philadelphia Water working with Mural Arts? Waterways is our way of highlighting the importance of a healthy Schuylkill River–health that is greatly enhanced by our recent stormwater management improvements at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center.

Officially introduced in the fall of 2014, our renovations at Venice Island include a storage basin that can keep about 180 SEPTA buses worth – four million gallons – of untreated water from rushing into the Schuylkill during heavy rains. Other features include tree planters and a green roof to slow rainwater and a pump house that sends excess water from the basin to a treatment plant. All of that is good news for the shad, herons and crayfish featured in Waterways. It’s also good news for the many, many people who rely on a clean Schuylkill as their source for quality drinking water.

Now, people who see the artwork, which makes unique use of vinyl as a medium, can follow the steppingstones of Waterways through the neighborhood and to Venice Island and learn more about why this kind of infrastructure is so important for the health of our city and our waters. We're also hoping they’ll learn more about the amazing recreational amenities we brought to Venice Island with the help of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.        

Speaking of recreation, Philadelphia Water will also be at the PLAY Manayunk festival on Saturday (May 16) as the Manayunk Development Corporation and others celebrate all the amazing exercise and play opportunities in the neighborhood with activities like an attempt to break the world record for group sit-ups. We will have a booth where people can learn more about Waterways and our work at Venice Island while doing fun water-related art projects with Mural Arts. PLAY Manaunk kicks off with a race at 8 a.m. and wraps up with the simultaneous sit-up challenge from 1-2 p.m. 

Other activities include nature hikes, yoga classes, kayak and dragon boat rides, dance lessons, old-school kid's games, crafts, food trucks, music, performances, and more.

We hope you’ll come out to one or both of these events and learn more about the great work we are doing to improve the health of your local waterways. 

If you’re in the neighborhood and like the art, take a photo and share it on social media with the hashtag #phillywaterart to see who else is enjoying Waterways!

For more on Waterways visit phillywatersheds.org/phillywaterart

Follow along on social media: @PhillyH20 on Twitter  and Instagram and Facebook.com/PhillyH2O

Source Water Protection Catches Industry Spotlight

The April cover of the Journal - American Water Works Association. Credit: AWWA
The April cover of the Journal - American Water Works Association. Credit: AWWA

Our Source Water Protection Program is getting more recognition, this time from a leading industry publication, the Journal - American Water Works Association (JAWWA).  

Their April 2015 edition featured an in-depth look at Philadelphia Water’s source water protection efforts in an article titled “Philadelphia’s One-Water Approach Starts With Source Water Protection.”

The piece explores the far-reaching efforts of the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP), which works with a number of partners to maintain the health of the Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds, from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the furthest reaches of the rivers and their tributaries.

The Philadelphia Water employees who authored the report include Elizabeth Couillard, an engineer for SWPP since 2012; Molly D. Hesson, an engineer with the SWPP team since 2006; Kelly Anderson, Program Manager for the SWPP; Mary Ellen McCarty, the Watershed Information Program Manager in PWD’s Office of Watersheds; and Chris Crockett, the Deputy Commissioner of Planning and Environmental Services at PWD and the founder of the SWPP.

Described on the AWWA website as “the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water,” the 50,000-member association has been around since 1881 (which means PWD has them beat by a mere 80 years!).

Getting an article printed in a journal with such a large membership provides PWD with an opportunity to share our successful source water protection efforts with other industry experts, and puts a spotlight on the work behind programs like our Early Warning System Partnership, which just took home a big Environmental Excellence award.

“At a time when we hear so many stories of the impact of human activity on drinking water supplies in the news, understanding and promoting the concept of ‘one water’ is increasingly important. This article was a great opportunity to share PWD's unique perspective as an integrated utility, providing multiple water-related services—drinking water supply, wastewater collection and stormwater management—to customers in Philadelphia,” says Couillard. “PWD’s Source Water Protection Program is charged with protecting Philadelphia’s water supply from upstream threats and is in a unique position to use department experience in each of these services here in the city and then apply them to protection strategies upstream.”

Philadelphia Water thanks the authors of the JAWWA article and all the people who make up the SWPP team for getting the word out about all the hard work we do to make sure Philly always has safe, clean water on tap.
Want to know more about the Source Water Protection Program? Click here.

Philadelphia Water's Early Warning System Getting Praise from High Places

Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.
Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.

Our Source Water Protection Program at Philadelphia Water does all kinds of important work to ensure the water we drink is safe and protected, from far-off springs in the Catskill and Pocono mountains all the way down to the intakes at our drinking water treatment plants.  However, one of the most critical jobs is overseeing the Delaware Valley Early Warning System–a complex network that stretches from the Delaware Water Gap all the way to Wilmington, Del. and provides a way to sound the alarm when incidents like spills and flooding events occur. 

In recognition of the hard work the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP) does to make sure this crucial web-based system is constantly updated to provide the fastest possible warning and response during emergency situations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection selected the Delaware Valley Early Warning System (EWS) for the 2015 Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.  Our EWS will be among 15 other programs honored during a special dinner on April 28 in Harrisburg. The award recognizes “the development of a project that promotes environmental stewardship and economic development in the state,” according to the Pa. DEP website.

At its core, the EWS has a simple goal: to notify drinking water suppliers and other water consumers along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers of spills and accidents that occur upstream as quickly as possible. Doing that requires a sophisticated network of over 300 users representing 50 organizations that make up what’s called the EWS Partnership.  Groups within the Partnership can access the system via the EWS telephone hotline or website to alert the network about spills and other incidents, and high-tech features like real-time water quality monitoring and computer models showing how quickly contaminants are moving downstream provide additional information for quick and smart decision making.

Last year, the Source Water team made the EWS even better by implementing a new computer model that predicts the tidal movement of water–critical information during a spill or flood scenario–in the lower Delaware River, where tides play a role in where water goes. This greatly enhanced detail on tidal flows in the Delaware Estuary is of tremendous value to places like PWD’s Baxter drinking water treatment plant, which supplies approximately 60 percent of the city with drinking water.

Given Philadelphia’s location along two rivers at the very bottom of a watershed with plenty of industrial activity, incidents requiring the use of the EWS are inevitable.  This reality makes the work of the SWPP team–and especially maintenance of the warning system–incredibly important, so we are particularly proud of this award from the Pa. DEP. Keep on keeping us safe!

Schuylkill River Spree Under Way, Includes All-New SRT Ale!

View of the Schuylkill Banks section of the Schuylkill Trail from the South Street Bridge.
The Schuylkill River Trail, photo courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Commission.

One of the greatest uses humankind has devised for water is brewing that wonderful elixir known as beer (and ale, pilsner, lager, stout, porter or whatever whets your whistle on a Friday!). And one of PWD’s most important missions is safeguarding our beer water supply by acting in collaboration with other communities and groups as stewards of our wonderful Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.

To call attention to the importance of our Schuylkill River and its value to the whole region, Sly Fox Brewery, with locations in Pottstown and Phoenixville, in collaboration with the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, will release SRT Ale on Earth Day (April 22). SRT Ale celebrates the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT), and a portion of the proceeds of the hoppy, gold-hued brew's sales will benefit the trail. The 5-day buildup to the official release begins TODAY as they kick off the SRT Spree. Sly Fox describes the journey from Pottstown to Schuylkill Banks in Philly well on their website

Reminiscent of Lewis & Clark, the SRT Spree includes a two-man-team representing Sly Fox Brewing Company. This is not an organized group excursion although fans of Sly Fox beer and the Schuylkill River Trail are welcome to travel along any segment of the journey or the entire trip.

The Schuylkill River Heritage Area provides even more details about this awesome journey:

The team will travel by kayaks, road bicycles, trail bikes, horseback, recumbent trikes and on foot to advance the giant can to the final destination. Each day the Spree will stop along the trail for an organized trail cleanup and recognition of a local beer purveyor that will introduce SRT Ale to the public.

You can volunteer to participate in the SRT Spree and help out with one of several trail cleanups planned for today through Wednesday. They are still very much in need of volunteers for tomorrow morning, in Kernsville from 8-10 a.m. if you can make the trek out to a community upstream!

Use this link to sign up for one of the clean-ups.

And get this… Trail Cleanup volunteers aged 21 and older will be given one free voucher to taste the new beer! SRT Ale tappings will be held each evening at licensed establishments located near the cleanup sites. Cheers! 

Endangered Shortnose Sturgeon Returns to the Schuylkill


Shortnose sturgeon
Shortnosed sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum. Author: Karen Couch, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last summer, just below the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill River, an angler managed to catch a shortnose sturgeon, a species of fish that has been on the endangered species list since 1967! While sometimes found in the Delaware River, the shortnose sturgeon has never been found in the Schuylkill—at least not on record. PWD regularly samples fish in the Schuylkill and in their 14 years of sampling below the dam, they have not seen this species.

Spotting this shortnosed sturgeon not only indicates that the species could be coming back, it also indicates that the water quality of the Schuylkill is improving. Researchers have long used levels of dissolved oxygen to gauge water quality—oxygen deficient water is not good for aquatic life. The sturgeon is extremely sensitive to low levels of dissolved oxygen, so finding one in the Schuylkill indicates that the dissolved oxygen levels are on the rise.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a sturgeon, remember it is a protected species and that you should quickly return it to the water. To learn more about the shortnosed sturgeon and other species (not all good!) that inhabit the Schuylkill River, check out this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Schuylkill Expedition for High School Students

Are you a high school student looking for exciting programs to be a part of this summer?

Schuylkill Acts and Impacts is a weeklong service-learning expedition that will be offered to high school students from communities within the Schuylkill River Watershed. From Saturday, June 7 to June 14, students will travel the 120-mile Schuylkill River from its headwaters in anthracite coal lands of Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Participants will be guided downriver, where they will learn about issues impacting water quality.

The expedition includes:

  • Paddling stretches of the river with biologists to conduct water quality monitoring
  • Touring abandoned and active coal mines
  • Visiting farms to examine stream bank erosion
  • Exploring the streets of Philadelphia to learn more about their pioneering work in mitigating stormwater

This is an opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on!

To find more information about the Schuylkill Acts and Impacts Expedition and to apply click here.

Spring Blooming in the Schuylkill

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Some customers in Roxborough and East Falls have been noticing an earthy odor in their drinking water. This is not uncommon in spring and summer when warmer water temperatures and abundant nutrients encourage blue-green algae to grow. While the algae are removed by water treatment, the earthy odor remains in trace levels of geosmin - a naturally occurring product of microorganisms found worldwide in soil and water. This compound has no reported health concerns and so it does not affect the safety of the tap water. 

If you notice any unusual odors, call our customer information line at (215) 685-6300. This allows PWD to track customer concerns and make necessary adjustments in treatment to control the odor. As a resident, there are a number of clean stormwater tips you can use to help keep these nuisance algae down in the watersheds. And if you’re thirsty for more information on your drinking water, check out the 2013 Water Quality Report. Previous Water Quality Reports can be found here.

 

 

 

Governor Awards Schuylkill Action Network for Environmental Excellence

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SAN Logo

A big shout-out to the Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) for receiving the 2013 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence! This award is granted each year to a Pennsylvania organization that displays outstanding achievements in environmental protection throughout the Commonwealth. The highest environmental statewide honor given to businesses and organizations, this award commends such activities as energy conservation, waste reduction and pollution management.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) will accept the award on behalf of the Schuylkill Action network for their accomplishments in the protection of the City of Philadelphia’s source water. The Philadelphia Water Department's Source Water Protection Program takes a watershed-wide approach to protecting the quality of the City’s drinking water sources. The SAN is a particularly important partner in this approach to source water protection. PWD, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency Region III, PDE, and PA DEP founded the SAN in 2003 after PWD completed the Schuylkill Watershed’s Source Water Assessments. Through partnerships with a variety of other environmental organizations, businesses and federal and state agencies, the Schuylkill Action Network is dedicated to the short-term and long-term well-being of Pennsylvania’s natural resources, as well as educating the public about the importance of a healthy water system.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council will be hosting a ceremonial dinner to honor all the award recipients on April 17 at the Hilton Harrisburg, with Richard Allan, Secretary of the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources serving as keynote speaker.

Vote for the Schuylkill River for 2013 River of the Year!

In case you didn't hear, the Schuylkill River is a nominee for the 2013 River of the Year- an honor bestowed upon a Commonwealth river to elevate public awareness about that resource and recognize important conservation needs and achievements. The winning waterway undergoes a year of activities and events celebrating the river, including a special extended paddling trip known as a sojourn. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers.   The winning river will be selected by votes from the public, so don't forget to cast your vote today!!! Voting ends on January 18th.

The Schuylkill River flows through both rural and urban communities starting in Pennsylvania’s Coal Region and passing to the City of Philadelphia.  Over 1.5 million people receive their drinking water from the Schuylkill River and its tributaries. Improved water treatment systems, watershed education programs, and other cleanup measures have transformed the river from a dead river in the mid-1900s to a healthy habitat for a vast amount of fish and other wildlife. The Schuylkill River provides an ideal spot for recreation with its vast network of trails leading to the Schuylkill Banks greenway in the heart of Philadelphia.

Read more blog posts about fish improved fish habitat in the Schuylkill:
Fair Catch: Fishing on the Schuylkill
Upstream Battle: Shad Ascend Schuylkill Pas Phoenixville for First Time in Almost 200 Years
Northwest Passage: Fairmount Fish Ladder Helps Shad Swim Up the Schuylkill

To learn more about the contest and to cast your vote, just visit the website below.  Happy Voting!
Cast your vote here: http://pawatersheds.org/vote

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