Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra McCarty and City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis (right) announce that Philadelphia more than doubled five-year pollution reduction targets. Credit: Brian Rademaekers/Philadelphia Water
The City of Philadelphia announced a major achievement accomplished through the Green City, Clean Waters program at a June 16 celebration marking the five-year anniversary of the Green Stormwater Infrastructure plan’s adoption.
Joined by community and business partners, industry experts, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garwin, Pa. DEP Regional Director Cosmo Servidio and City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBeradinis at the historic Fairmount Water Works, officials from Philadelphia Water unveiled figures showing that the City more than doubled five-year pollution reduction targets established at the start of the Green City, Clean Waters program in June 2011.
As of June 1, 2016, more than 837 “Greened Acres” have been established in the city, representing a more than 1.5 billion gallon reduction in stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows during a typical year of rainfall. Under the 2011 agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (EPA), the City was required to create 744 Greened Acres, representing a 600 million gallon per-year reduction in runoff and overflows, by June 2016.
Each Greened Acre uses green tools such as rain gardens and stormwater tree planters to manage at least 27,158 gallons of runoff from hard surfaces like streets and parking lots every time an inch of rain falls in the city. In addition to filtering pollutants out of stormwater, green infrastructure sites keep excess water out of Philadelphia’s overburdened sewer system, where overflows can lead to sewage spilling into local waterways.
"By working with an array of partners, including community leaders, City departments, the School District, private developers, elected officials and environmental advocates, Philadelphia Water is now transitioning Green City, Clean Waters from its initial development phase into a full-scale program that is already making our rivers cleaner while improving neighborhoods, block by block," says Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra A. McCarty.
By surpassing the June 2016 targets, the City brings Green City, Clean Waters closer to achieving the ultimate goal of reducing runoff and overflow pollution volume by 85 percent by 2036. The plan calls for an overall reduction of nearly 8 billion gallons per year within the first 25 years of program.
Achieving the five-year milestone signals the start of an accelerated period of growth for Green City, Clean Waters; within the next five-year period, the City must achieve 2,148 Greened Acres, reducing overflow and runoff volume by more than 2 billion gallons per year in 2021.
Philadelphia is one of more than 800 communities nationwide that must reduce overflows associated with combined sewer systems under new EPA regulations. While many municipalities are building larger sewers and retention tanks to hold excess water during storms, Philadelphia has become a national leader in developing an approach that primarily relies on green neighborhood investments that complement and strengthen traditional stormwater infrastructure.
"On behalf of Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia, I congratulate the thousands of City employees, partners, community leaders, businesses, environmental advocates and the state and federal regulators who made this achievement possible," says City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis. "To say that Philadelphia Water is making history in this country is no exaggeration—it’s a fact. We’re experiencing the benefits of Green City, Clean Waters at our schools, at our parks, on our streets. Our rivers and our neighborhoods are better because of the courage, creativity and innovation embodied by this effort, and I can’t wait to see what our city will look like 20 years from today.”
Philadelphia Water will present final five-year figures to state and federal regulators in an official report this fall, and more outreach events are planned to mark the growth of the program and prepare for an even larger green infrastructure network in Philadelphia.
More information about the five-year accomplishment and photos from the June 16 celebration can be found at www.Phillywatersheds.org/5Down