trash

Philadelphia Water Department’s Kelly Drive Water Stations Set to Return

Thumbs up for water access: The Kelly Drive water stations will be flowing again soon.
Thumbs up for water access: The Kelly Drive water stations will be flowing again soon.

With the return of warmer weather, we're preparing to restore service at our four Schuylkill River Trail/Kelly Drive water stations and plan to have them online by the end of April. The stations made their debut in spring 2016 and were winterized and closed in late November 2016 to protect the internal plumbing from freezing temperatures.

Thank You, MLK Day of Service Volunteers, for Helping Philly Rivers

While MLK Day doesn't have the same environmental focus as say, Earth Day, the fact is, a lot of the work being done in King's honor during today's Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service—an event being touted as the biggest MLK Day volunteer effort in the nation—will help Philly's rivers and creeks.

Some events, like MLK Day cleanups planned for Bartram's Garden, the Schuylkill River Trail in Manayunk and along the Pennypack and Tacony creeks in Northeast Philly, are directly targeting our watersheds:

But even cleanup events in neighborhoods where you don't see a river or creek can help protect local aquatic wildlife. 

How?

Update to Rio vs. Philly Water Quality Blog: The Trash Problem

Stormwater runoff pollution isn’t just about the things that can make you sick. Litter from our streets gets washed into local waterways, hurting wildlife and nature’s beauty. Credit: Philadelphia Water
Stormwater runoff pollution isn’t just about the things that can make you sick. Litter from our streets gets washed into local waterways, hurting wildlife and nature’s beauty. Credit: Philadelphia Water 

Alan Robinson leads the Schuylkill Navy River Stewards committee, an organization that partners with Philadelphia Water to support our waterway trash removal efforts. After reading last week’s post on Rio’s water quality problems and what we do differently in Philadelphia, Robinson noted that stormwater runoff doesn’t just wash microscopic pollutants like pathogens and chemicals into our rivers and creeks.

His pet peeve is, in a purely physical sense, a larger problem.

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.”

MLK Day of Service Will Help Philly Rivers. Here's How:

Dozens of bags of “floatable” trash pulled from the Delaware River during a 2015 volunteer cleanup. MLK Day of Service volunteers who participate in neighborhood trash removal will also be helping our rivers because cleaner streets = cleaner creeks and rivers. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Dozens of bags of “floatable” trash pulled from the Delaware River during a 2015 volunteer cleanup. MLK Day of Service volunteers who participate in neighborhood trash removal will also be helping our rivers because cleaner streets = cleaner creeks and rivers. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

As far as resumes go, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s is pretty hard to top.

A 200,000-person march on Washington that was crucial in helping to pass the Civil Rights Act? Check.

A year-long bus boycott that eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling declaring segregated buses unconstitutional? Check.

The list of Dr. King’s accomplishments is long, but one thing you don’t hear too much about is King the environmentalist. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t connections between his activism and the green movement that helped to bring us transformational legislation like the Clean Water Act.

Despite the fact his 1968 assassination predated the first Earth Day by two years, many credit MLK’s work as laying the foundation for the environmental justice movement—a movement guided by the belief that all people, no matter their race or income level, have an equal right to things like safe, clean drinking water and health-promoting green space.

No matter how you think of Dr. King’s legacy, the fact is, much of the work that will be done in his honor during the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service—an event being touted as the biggest MLK Day volunteer effort in the nation—will help our rivers.

How?

Living Lands and Waters Leaves Philly with 32,832 Pounds Less Trash

Two Dumpsters full of trash from the Delaware River.
This trash was collected from the Delaware River by crews working with Living Lands and Waters in late August, early September. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Living Lands and Waters, an Illinois-based non-profit dedicated to cleaning up America’s rivers, spent the end of the summer on the Delaware River. And they found lots and lots of trash.

In a cleanup effort that lasted from August 20 to September 2, LL&W travelled up and down the river in a pair of boats designed for collecting trash.

Here are the stats from their stay:

• LLW hosted a total of 20 cleanups

• 237 people from the region came out to gather trash

• 32,831.5 pounds (about 16.5 tons) of garbage were removed from the Delaware River

• 330 of the bags collected contained non-recyclable trash

• 353 (over 50 percent) of the bags collected contained recyclables

• 308 tires were removed and later recycled by Bridgestone/Firestone

Philadelphia Water took part in the effort, and one of the most striking aspects of the cleanup was just how many plastic bottles litter the banks of our biggest river. Nearly every foot of the shoreline near the Betsy Ross Bridge contained numerous plastic bottles, and only the infuriatingly hard to collect debris left behind by Styrofoam coffee cups came close to outnumbering this form of trash.

If anyone participating in that effort wasn’t an advocate for reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, they surely are now. Click here to see some photos (including some of a pickup truck literally overflowing with collected plastic bottles) from one of the cleanups with Philadelphia Water.

Restoration Team to Be Toasted at 'Watershed Milestones'

A car rests in a stream in the city's Northeast. Credit: Waterways Restoration Team,
A car rests in a stream in the city's Northeast. Credit: Waterways Restoration Team,

Ever see some serious trash—we’re talking tires, shopping carts, and yes, even cars—in a stream and wonder who on earth will ever have the muscle to get it out? That would be Philadelphia Water’s Waterways Restoration Team (WRT), a hard working branch of the department that takes on the aforementioned litter and does things like restore creek banks that have been degraded by erosion. 

It’s important work that doesn’t just restore the beauty of our waterways, but helps to preserve the quality of the water we drink. The Tookany/Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTFWP), an important group in our watershed stewardship efforts, is honoring the Waterways Restoration Team with their “Municipal Leader Award” at an event marking their 10th anniversary tonight.

Dubbed “Watershed Milestones,” the celebration will feature Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug and pays tribute to the various groups and people who have worked to improve and preserve the quality of the watershed’s 30 square miles beginning in Montgomery County and ending at the base of the Betsy Ross Bridge on the Delaware. In addition to regular volunteer cleanups that complement WRT work, TTFWP has helped Philadelphia Water to conduct litter studies, done important work to document and seed freshwater mussels in the creek, and organizes Tacony Creek Park nature walks, to name just a few of their activities.

Those who wish to support the group can get tickets for the event, to be held at the Globe Dye Works building in the Frankford neighborhood starting at 5:30 p.m., by clicking here. Proceeds will go toward outreach, education, and restoration efforts. Those who get tickets online can save $10 off the door charge.

Congratulations to TTF Watershed for 10 years of amazing work! 

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.

Join the Schuylkill Scrub!

Visit the Schuylkill River in the warmer months and you will find it teeming with life, both in the water and along its banks. It is hard to imagine that this scenic river, which provides drinking water to over 1.5 million people (that’s 12 out of every 100 Pennsylvanians!), was once considered the dirtiest river in the country.  The Schuylkill has come a long way and today boasts one quarter of the watershed designated as high quality or exceptional waters. But it still needs your help… and now is the time to do it—join the Schuylkill Scrub!

The Schuylkill Scrub, coordinated by the Schuylkill Action Network, is an annual clean-up initiative that happens every spring. This year’s Scrub started at the beginning of March and runs through May 31, so there’s still time to organize and register a clean-up event in you part of the watershed (or find one that already exists). You’ll be working alongside other partners and concerned citizens to clean as many miles of road, stream and parkland within the watershed. This coordinated effort will help keep our land and water litter-free (which is a good thing, remember, people drink that water).

The Schuylkill Scrub is now part of the Great American Cleanup of PA, so you’ll be part of a larger effort to clean and beautify our entire state and your cleanup can get free supplies like trash bags, gloves and vests, provided through Keep PA Beautiful and PennDOT. Additionally, during the Pick It Up PA Days, which is from April 11th to May 4th, registered events will have access to reduced or free trash disposal.

Last year, Keep America Beautiful logged over 52,000 volunteers who removed 1,300 tons of trash in over 1,200 neighborhoods in the five counties surrounding the Schuylkill River! Help make this year a success by signing up today and know that you‘re part of the effort to keep trash out of the Schuylkill, from the headwaters in Schuylkill County down to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

Click here for more information and to register your cleanup: http://www.schuylkillscrub.org/

If you don’t have time to organize your own cleanup, there may be one happening in your neighborhood already! Use this link to find existing cleanups http://www.schuylkillscrub.org/find-an-event.html.

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