Mayor Nutter, EPA Administrator Jackson Highlight Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Philadelphia, April 21, 2011 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz highlighted the Philadelphia Water Department’s Big Green Block initiative at Shissler Recreation Center and the Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA). The Big Green Block initiative, part of the Administration’s Green City, Clean Waters plan, promotes greening and stormwater management of the city blocks within the community surrounding the Shissler Recreation Center through implementing several green stormwater infrastructure systems on the property. The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, Sustainable 19125, the Mural Arts Program and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

“When we talk about sustainability and about green cities in the future, water must be among the first issues addressed. We can’t be green without water. The Big Green Block initiative is an exciting example of how we can work together toward a common vision of William Penn’s green country town,” said Mayor Nutter. “I would like to thank EPA Administrator Jackson for recognizing the importance of stormwater management in America’s cities, and especially Howard Neukrug and the Water Department for their forward thinking.”

“Instead of investing in one project that treats one concern, green infrastructure allows us to protect the health of our waters, save money and make our communities more attractive places to buy homes and build businesses,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “We want to use the win-win strategies we see here with the Big Green Block Initiative and other projects throughout the city to make every community healthier, more prosperous and more sustainable.”

“Not only does this initiative fit into the Mayor’s goal of greening the city, but it establishes Philadelphia’s leadership on innovative green technologies for water management and water quality,” U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz said. “Philadelphia will set an example for large and small cities across the nation to improve and maintain water quality through green infrastructure.”

The Green City, Green Waters plan, which was submitted to the EPA and the PA Department of Environment Protection, details how the PWD will invest $2 billion over the next 25 years to update the city’s stormwater infrastructure and manage sewage and stormwater overflow.

Stormwater infrastructure updates include a range of soil-water-plant systems to intercept stormwater, infiltrate a portion of it into the ground, evaporate a portion of it into the air, and in some cases, release it slowly into the sewer system. As a result, less stormwater ultimately enters the combined sewer system.

The Big Green Block initiative includes the Shissler Recreation Center, Kensington CAPA High School and the surrounding streets. At the Shissler Recreation Center, PWD installed stormwater tree trenches in the sport/ball field along Blair Street and Hewson Street. Two additional stormwater tree trenches will be installed by PWD along Palmer Street and Montgomery Avenue. The drainage area managed by these PWD green stormwater infrastructure systems is 54,290 square feet. PWD will also plant street trees on Berks Street and Blair Street to increase tree canopy cover and shade. PHS installed two rain gardens in the parking lot of the Shissler Recreation Center.

The Kensington CAPA High School, which is adjacent to the Shissler Recreation Center, features a master plan including implementation of several stormwater infrastructure systems including a porous pavement parking lot, rain gardens, underground detention and infiltration facilities, green roofs covering 50 percent of the roof area and rainwater cisterns for reuse.

“Ensuring the sustainable future of our neighborhoods must be a top priority for all Philadelphians, and the Big Green Block in New Kensington is the gold standard for reaching that goal,” said Drew Becher, President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “PHS is proud to be part of this effort, which includes our new initiative, Plant One Million, to increase the tree canopy in every city neighborhood and the region.”

Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug added, “We want to do everything we can to return us as close as possible to the way the nature intended the water cycle to be. Bur we need to do that in the context of a city that is fully grown, with impervious cover everywhere. We recognize that if we manage stormwater where it lands, whether on the ground or on a roof, that we can essentially not only prevent that gallon of stormwater from overflowing into our streams, but also provide additional benefits to our communities.”

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