Water Quality

4th District Water Town Hall with PWD and Councilman Jones

PWD Public Affairs General Manager Joanne Dahme (left) and Commissioner Debra McCarty speak with residents at a Water Town Hall held in April. Each City Council district will host a meeting with residents this year. Credit: Brian Rademaekers for the City of Philadelphia
PWD Public Affairs General Manager Joanne Dahme (left) and Commissioner Debra McCarty speak with residents at a Water Town Hall held in April. Each City Council district will host a meeting with residents this year.

A Water Town Hall will be held for residents of City Council’s Fourth District on Thursday, May 11th from 6 to 8 p.m. at Sharon Baptist Church, located at 3955 Conshohocken Ave.

This public forum is the second in a series of Water Town Halls for Philadelphia City Council Districts and will feature Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. and Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Debra McCarty. 

Spread the word: Invite friends on Facebook.

Councilman Mark Squilla and the Philadelphia Water Department Host Water Town Hall

Councilman Mark Squilla and the Philadelphia Water Department will hold a Water Town Hall meeting at Our Lady of Port Richmond School, located at 3233 E. Thompson St., on Tuesday, April 25th from 6 to 8 p.m.


Click the image to invite your friends and neighbors on Facebook.

 

This event is the first in a series of Water Town Halls for Philadelphia City Council Districts.

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.

Philly Fun Fish Fishing Fest and Coast Day: An Action-Packed Day on Our Waterfronts


The yellow line on the map above marks the area where the 2016 Philly Fun Fishing Fest will be held. Click for a larger image.

We've teamed up with a number of partners to make September 10 a truly special day for those looking to explore what Philly's rivers have to offer. If you've been hearing stories about the amazing comeback our local waterways are experiencing, this is your chance to grab the family and see it for yourself!

The Philly Fun Fishing Fest, sponsored by Philadelphia Water, Parks and Recreation, the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission and Schuylkill Banks, will be held at Schuylkill Banks on Saturday, September 10, 2016.

Baxter's Best: A Beer About Protecting Philly's Water

From right to left, counterclockwise: Tim Patton pours Baxter's Best at the Green City, Clean Waters 5-year party; the beer's namesake at top left in in 1961; a placard describing the character of the beer. Credit: Brian Rademaekers and PhillyH2O.org
From right to left, counterclockwise: Tim Patton pours Baxter's Best at the Green City, Clean Waters 5-year party; the beer's namesake at top left in in 1961; a placard describing the character of the beer. Credit: Brian Rademaekers and PhillyH2O.org

In marking the five-year anniversary of Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program, we’ve been busy talking about the importance of protecting the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers—the source of drinking water for over 1.5 million people in Philadelphia alone.

While we usually think about our drinking water as something residents consume in cold glasses from their kitchen tap, in a way, that water is also often served via a different sort of tap—those found at the hundreds of Philly bars proudly pouring beers brewed right here in our fair city.

Record-Setting ‘Sojourn’ Highlights the Schuylkill River’s Wild Beauty

Philadelphia Water's Paul Fugazzotto paddles to the finish of the 2016 Schuylkill Sojourn. A record 205 people joined the annual event this year. Photo credit: Brian Rademaekers
Philadelphia Water's Paul Fugazzotto paddles to the finish of the 2016 Schuylkill Sojourn. A record 205 people joined the annual event this year. Photo credit: Brian Rademaekers

If you happened to be in Philadelphia admiring the Schuylkill River’s picturesque beauty from afar last week, you might have been startled by what appeared to be an enormous flock of florescent birds, all of them rhythmically flapping their wings on the shimmering water:

Those “birds,” of course, were actually the 100-plus paddlers propelling the rainbow of brightly hued kayaks and canoes that made up the annual Schuylkill Sojourn. A seven day journey covering 112 miles of the Schuylkill River from its Schuylkill County headwaters all the way to Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row, the event has been held since 1998.

Urban Wildlife Podcast Explores Cool Philadelphia Water Job

Joe Perillo and Lance Butler of Philadelphia Water with a monster striped bass. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Joe Perillo and Lance Butler of Philadelphia Water with a monster striped bass. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Earlier this summer the locally-produced Urban Wildlife Podcast sat down with our very own Joe Perillo to talk about what creatures lurk in Philly's waters. And if anyone knows, it's Joe.

After all, it's his job: Perillo is an aquatic biologist in Philadelphia Water's Bureau of Laboratory Services division who, along with fellow aquatic biologist Lance Butler, helped get our bio-monitoring program off the ground starting in 2001.

Aquatic bio-monitoring, the collection and study of things living in our watersheds, is a tool Philadelphia Water deploys to learn more about the health of our urban waterways.

Here's how Perillo described the value of bio-monitoring to Urban Wildlife, which is produced by reptile and amphibian enthusiast Billy Brown and West Philly birder and naturalist Tony Croasdale, who has helped tons of kids learn about nature in Cobbs Creek through his Wild West Philly docent program (supported by Philadelphia Water):

When you take a water sample, you're basically taking a snapshot. That's one second of what that water body is like. When you start looking at aquatic life like [algae] you're assimilating days' worth of information. When you move up to higher forms of life, such as invertebrates, their life cycle is months, so now you're taking in all that environmental information. When you go to fish, you're talking about years. So instead of just grabbing that one snapshot of that one second of what the water is like, by looking at the aquatic life, you're getting longer term pictures of the health of the rivers and, specifically, what's impacting the health: what's keeping it from being healthier, or being impaired or polluted. Is it stormwater? Is it sewer overflows? Is it habitat degradation, sedimentation?

We thought Perillo's Urban Wildlife chat was so good (topics such as drunken Philly alligators are covered), we decided to ask him a few questions of our own to learn a bit more about his bio-monitoring work, which involves everything from briefly stunning fish en masse with a cattle prod-like tool to collecting microscopic plant life.

Philly Watersheds: It seems like the public only sees and hears about what you guys are doing when you happen to come across a 40-inch striper and your picture ends up on Philly.com, but I assume your day-to-day work is a bit different than just electroshocking trophy bass. How much of the time are you out there collecting these living samples, and how much of the time are you studying the information you get from the samples?

Perillo: My work is strongly tied with the different seasons of the year and varying life cycles of diverse aquatic organisms. Some of the creatures we study (like shad) are only present in this region for a couple weeks in the entire year. I would say, in a general sense, that late winter through the spring and into early summer is the busiest time of year; I’m almost always in the field and hardly in the lab during this time period. My work moves indoors when ice starts to form on our waterways, so December, January, and February we are in the lab looking into microscopes, analyzing data, and writing reports.

PW: Does Philadelphia Water have labs where scientists study fish and other biological samples, or do you mainly send the samples out to another lab and then study the results when they come back?

Perillo: We work closely with state and federal scientiststo collect, analyze, and interpret results.

PW: What does Philadelphia Water do with the information it collects from aquatic life samples?

Perillo: Most information is related to State and Federal Permit Compliance requirements and ends up in comprehensive reports to the major environmental regulators. I have published some of our data in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented research at international scientific conferences.

PW: In the years that you've been doing bio-monitoring in Philadelphia, have you observed any trends?

Perillo: A surprising trend for most folks is that in many instances water quality and biotic integrity is better in the city portion of a watershed than out in the suburbs.

PW: And, of course, what's the coolest aquatic life you've ever found in Philadelphia?

Perillo: Several years ago, was the first time in almost 200 years that an adult American Shad was found above Valley Forge in the Schuylkill River. At one time this species was the king of the river, shaping much of the cultural and economic history; but it was nearly wiped out during the Industrial Revolution due to severe pollution, over-harvesting, and construction of dams/loss of habitat.

To learn more about Perillo's work out on Philadelphia's rivers and hear some great stories about the natural world at your doorstep, listen to the full Urban Wildlife Podcast episode here (Joe comes in around the 9 minute mark). You can also read about our fish monitoring program (the source of those great striped bass pics) here.

See What a Healthier River Looks Like at INVISIBLE RIVER

Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.
Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.

We have lots of ways to measure the improving quality of Philadelphia's two rivers, but one of our favorite is simply seeing more and more people think of the Schuylkill and Delaware as beautiful, natural places to visit for recreation and relaxation. Since everything we do comes back to protecting and enchancing water quality, we see the change in the way people think about our rivers as a real metric of success.

But, as much as our rivers have improved, not everyone knows about it, and many people are still physically cut off from accessing these urban treasures.
Helping to nudge people to the scenic and natural beauty of the Schuylkill River is INVISIBLE RIVER, a nonprofit whose mission is "to use art, outdoor activities and dynamic programming to build wise stewardship of our rivers and waterways, to create unique and otherworldly artistic celebrations and to engage the public in art and environmental education."

We can get behind that!

Over the last few years, INVISIBLE RIVER has created a lot of buzz with stunning acrobatic performances featuring dancers suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with the river acting as a breathtaking backdrop.
This year's big event will take place Saturday, August 29th from 2 to 8 p.m. and incorporates what Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich calls "a more open format than previous events."

Rather than just one big performance, this year will be more like a festival on the river that kicks off with an opening performance followed by lots of cool activities, with their trademark acrobatics as the grand finale.
A processional led by Positive Movement & Ecstatic Drill Team starts things off at Mander Recreation Center at 2140 N 33rd St. and Diamond Drive at 2 p.m., and a full day of activities will center around the festival area in the parking lot next to the St. Joseph’s University Boathouse, 2200 Kelly Drive. Participants are encourgaged to park at Mander take a walk to the river from there.

As one of the event sponsors, Philadelphia Water will be there too, partnering with Mural Arts to host some activities showing people how the green tools that make up Green City, Clean Waters are making the Schuylkill River even healthier. We'll also have members of our education team from the Fairmount Water Works there to provide some family fun.

Other INVISIBLE RIVER activities include free boating and paddling lessons, fishing lessons for kids, food trucks and vendors, and a beer garden.
Those who want to catch the Strawberry Mansion Bridge performance should be there at 5:30 p.m. There are lots of cool options for watching the performance, including "Bring Your Own Boat" and  a "Front Row Seats" program that lets people rent boats from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Check out the INVISIBLE RIVER website for more details, including transportation options like bike rentals and a special Phlash shuttle to help people get to the river.

"We have seen a change in the way people view the river, especially with the artists who interact with the river and the anglers who fish in the Schuylkill," says Vidich. "But for some people, there's still this cloud of past pollution hanging over the river, and we hope events like this can help change that."  

Fightin' Phils: A Caddis Comeback?

The Philopotamid caddisfly larvae. Credit: Philadelphia Water
The Philopotamid caddisfly larvae. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Uh, not those Phils. With 62 losses already in the season and the All-Star break just behind us, we're talking about the comeback of a different kind of “Phils,” the aquatic insects of the family Philopotamidae.

The larvae of these tiny invertebrates, also known as fingernet spinning caddisflies, live under rocks in well-oxygenated areas of streams.
Philadelphia Water scientists have been surveying insects and other forms of aquatic life in Philadelphia area streams for more than 15 years now to assess water quality and habitat conditions. You’d be surprised what you can learn from bugs—they’re a big part of what scientists call “bioindicators.”

The last few years, we've noticed a bit of an uptick in the number of Phils in our samples—a good thing because these little guys are somewhat more sensitive to pollution than many other aquatic insects we usually find in urban streams.

Here's a look at what we've found since 2000:

Above: Percent Philopotamide caddisflies in Philadelphia Water stream survey samples 2000-2014. Note: No samples were taken in 2009-10. Each dot represents a specific sample location. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Above: Percent Philopotamide caddisflies in Philadelphia Water stream survey samples 2000-2014. Note: No samples were taken in 2009-10. Each dot represents a specific sample location.

It's too early to speculate on what might be responsible for the increase. Maybe intense storms in 2004 and 2005 depressed the numbers of Phils and we're just seeing a return to normal conditions. Maybe we're seeing more Phils because we've begun to spread our sampling stations around the various city streams a little more—nobody knows.

But it is, nevertheless, a good sign to see increased numbers of slightly more pollution-sensitive insects. We hope the trend keeps up as more stringent stormwater regulations, introduced July 1, are implemented and Green City, Clean Waters continues to grow. Those efforts will improve dissolved oxygen levels (good news for the Phils) in our waterways by reducing the amount of stormwater pollution entering our rivers and streams.

Read more about what you can do to give these Phils a fightin' chance on the Rain Check page.

Guest blogger Jason Cruz is an aquatic biologist at Philadelphia Water.

Philly's Secret? Good Water = Good Beer



Some years ago a baker who was setting up shop down south asked me to provide a summary of everything in Philadelphia’s water. He said that Philadelphia’s water makes really good bread, and he wanted to replicate our chemistry at his distant location. Philly does have good bread and soft pretzels. And good beer, too!  It turns out that one of the keys to Philadelphia’s tasty bread, pretzels and beer is keeping the yeast happy and enabling their enzymes to work their magic.

So how is that related to our water? The only thing I knew about the beer-making process was that brewers had to remove the chlorine residual from the water before using it, so in a quest to find out more, I bought a book titled Water – A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers (John Palmer and Colin Kaminski, 2013, Brewers Publications). 

The book confirmed that the natural ingredients in water are important to brewing. One way to get water that’s good for brewing is to remove everything from it and then add back the minerals and salts at just the right levels. The other way is to establish a brewery where the water is naturally good—lucky for us, Philadelphia’s breweries fall in this category. The most important characteristics of water, besides it not having any off flavors or contaminants, are the pH, hardness with calcium and magnesium, and alkalinity. The process of making a flavorful beer is affected by these characteristics and different beers, lighter or darker for example, have different needs. The water's composition affects the yeast, their enzymes, the beer’s clarity and flavor, and its stability. Sodium, chloride, sulfate and other ingredients in water at the right levels are also helpful.

According to the book, Philadelphia’s water stacks up well when it comes the most important ingredients in water. These ingredients largely come from the rivers, naturally. Although considered moderately hard, Philly water is on the lower end for hardness, especially for calcium, but that can be added during the brewing process.

Our water may explain, in part, why there are so many fantastic breweries and bakeries in our city. And since we’re on the subject of Philly beer, it is worth noting that Yards Brewery recently won a Good Food Award for being eco- friendly and delicious. Yards is powered completely off the grid by 100% wind power, their packaging is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, they send their used grain to local farms to be used as feed and the brewhouse collects and reuses 2 million gallons of water per year! So the next time you reach for a beer, drink responsibly and consider the environment and the flavor. 

Syndicate content