GSI Excellence Awards Showcase Philly as the 'Silicon Valley of Green Infrastructure'

Philadelphia’s healthy (and growing) green stormwater infrastructure economy was evident at the inaugural GSI Excellence Awards, hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Sustainable Business Network (SBN) at the WHYY studios on March 31.

Nearly 200 people involved in creating and maintaining the kind of green systems that make Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program work came out to celebrate some of the best regional projects in green stormwater management. From top officials at Philadelphia Water to the owners of small private GSI maintenance firms, the crowd was an impressive and representative mix of the people making Philadelphia a national leader in green solutions.

Speaking of leaders, former Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug was honored with the first-ever GSI Leadership Award. Neukrug picked up the green torch from predecessor Bernard Brunwasser when he took over in 2011 and was instrumental in getting the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection and Environmental Protection Agency to sign off on the Green City, Clean Waters program. (Watch a video about his Green City, Clean Waters work here.)

Neukrug retired from Philadelphia Water in December 2015 and was recently named a Senior Fellow at the US Water Alliance, where he will continue to advocate for smart investments in water infrastructure.

“Neukrug has been a visionary in sustainable water management, spearheading the green stormwater infrastructure movement within Philadelphia, and leading the City to become the national model for green stormwater management that it is today,” SBN said after announcing the award.

West Philadelphia’s Lea Elementary School, which used a Philadelphia Water Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant to help fund a schoolyard rain garden, won Best Public Project. To see the full list of winners, visit SBN’s GSI Partners site.

Philadelphia Water Deputy Commissioner Dr. Chris Crockett was the event’s keynote speaker, and praised the long list of green projects either built through Green City, Clean Waters or by private developers over the last five years. Those projects, Crockett said, are now keeping hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water out of our rivers each year.

“Over the last five years, Philadelphia has emerged as the Silicon Valley of green infrastructure,” Crockett told the crowd. “Soon, green infrastructure will be as commonplace in Philly as manholes are today.”

Neukrug’s former Chief of Staff, Christine Knapp, facilitated the awards ceremony. She left Philadelphia Water earlier this year to lead the new Office of Sustainability for Mayor Jim Kenney. Congratulations to all the winners, and big thank you to all the people who continue to make Philadelphia a GSI powerhouse!