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Archive for March, 2014

31
Mar

The Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) is honored to announce that Larry Patchel was selected as a finalist for the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award. This award highlights inspirational volunteers in action who have made a contribution to urban forestry by improving community trees and the neighborhoods where they live.

Larry stands with a Chestnut tree he planted.

Larry stands with a Chestnut tree he planted.

ACTrees is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and livability of cities by planting and caring for trees. To date, over 5 million volunteers from ACTrees member organizations (including NMRWA) have planted more than 15 million trees across the country.

NMRWA nominated Larry for this award because he is a truly exceptional volunteer that encourages people from different backgrounds and groups to work together as a community. Larry uses his charm and vast horticultural knowledge and experience to teach others about proper tree planting and pruning techniques, soil composition, plant taxonomy, proper tool usage, and safety.

“Volunteers are the heart of local tree nonprofits, providing the resources and energy that make tree planting and care possible,” says Carrie Gallagher, ACTrees Executive Director. “Larry Patchel models the ideals of stewardship, giving, professionalism, and leadership.”

Larry works with tree planting volunteers. “One of my objectives is to make Pittsburgh the place where more trees are planted at different locations than any other place” – Larry Patchel

Larry works with tree planting volunteers. “One of my objectives is to make Pittsburgh the place where more trees are planted at different locations than any other place” – Larry Patchel

Whether he is identifying poison ivy for kids at the high school rain garden, digging tree holes with students from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, or advocating for trees at the Boys and Girls Club of Wilkinsburg, Larry’s hands-on, contagious, and charismatic style is well-known in this small Pittsburgh community.

Larry is an active member of the American Chestnut Foundation, helping to hybridize Chinese and American chestnuts, and tending to the seedlings until they become trees. He sets up a tent each year at the Phipps Conservatory Plant Sale and sharpens pruners and other tools to benefit the Men’s Garden Club of Pittsburgh, of which he is a member. He also attended all of the tree plantings from the 500 Tree Initiative in Wilkinsburg implemented by NMRWA.

Brenda Smith, Executive Director of Nine Mile Run Watershed Association says, “We are very lucky to have Larry as a dedicated and passionate volunteer of Nine Mile Run Watershed Association. He continues to work hard to improve his community. Larry embodies ACTrees’ mission of ‘improving the environment and community – one tree at a time’. We are excited to acknowledge Larry’s dedication and hard work through the ACTrees Volunteer of the Year nomination”.

 

We want to thank Larry for his dedication to and passion for our work.

Larry stands with an oak tree, one of the largest oldest trees in the borough of Wilkinsburg.

Larry stands with an oak tree, one of the largest oldest trees in the borough of Wilkinsburg.

28
Mar
Gina shows the NMRWA staff a mosaic that represents the PWSA treatment plant facilities.

Gina shows the NMRWA staff a mosaic in the entryway that represents the PWSA treatment plant facilities.

Monday March 24th, NMRWA staff toured the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) treatment plant facility. NMRWA has several connections to PWSA, in addition to our shared interest in regional water quality: Sara Madden, StormWorks Design Manager, is a member of their Green Infrastructure Technical Advisory Committee, and James Stitt, PWSA Sustainability Coordinator, is a member of the NMRWA Board of Directors.

Starting our tour with a brief history of potable water treatment and transportation in Pittsburgh, Gina Cyprych, PWSA’s Environmental Compliance Coordinator, described how Pittsburgh’s water needs have shifted over time.

During this step of the treatment process, water is filtered to remove organic particulate matter.

During this step of the treatment process, water is filtered to remove organic particulate matter.

Beginning in the late 1700s and 1800s, most of the focus was on building an adequate water supply, in part to help prevent fires like the great fire of 1845 that destroyed nearly 1/3 of the city.

It wasn’t until 1894 however that Pittsburgh began to focus more on water treatment than water capacity. This was spurred by extremely high death rates from both cholera and typhoid in the mid-1800s. John Snow’s proof of a relationship between cholera and drinking water supply in 1855 also helped to demonstrate the need for water filtration.

Over the next twenty years, a slow sand filtration plant was constructed, as well as multiple reservoirs, storage tanks, and pumping stations. These improvements, along with chlorine disinfection caused cholera and typhoid rates to drop dramatically.

NMRWA staff listen to Gina explain a step in the water treatment process.

NMRWA staff listen to Gina explain a step in the water treatment process.

Since PWSA was formed in 1984, they have continued to make improvements to their water treatment process – the slow sand filters have been replaced with new, more efficient technologies, and PWSA is beginning to focus on sustainability and green technologies, in addition to maintaining excellent water quality. (Just a note: the former Pittsburgh Water Department became a part of PWSA in 1995.)

Today, PWSA services more than 300,000 people with over 100 million gallons of water a day, and a lot of work goes into treating that much water!

It is first pumped from the Allegheny River, and then goes through a multi-step process of filtration and treatment before it is pumped to several water towers and reservoirs throughout the city. One unique feature of PWSA’s infrastructure is that all of the water its customers receive is gravity fed – there is no pumping necessary after it reaches those reservoirs.

Thank you so much to Gina and PWSA for the tour! We enjoyed learning more about PWSA and the important work they do.

26
Mar

If you drove down Penn Avenue in the Wilkinsburg business district last Saturday, you may have seen people in brightly colored vests working on the street trees. That’s because on Saturday, March 22, 2014 NMRWA joined forces with Tree Pittsburgh and watershed Tree Tenders for our first pruning workshop in Wilkinsburg!

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Volunteers gather around to review basic tree pruning guidelines.
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Jake demonstrates a proper pruning cut.
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The first step of pruning is to look for the 3 D's - dead, damaged, or diseased branches.
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Pruning trees in the 900 block of Penn Avenue.

We were performing important maintenance on 27 of the 76 trees that were planted in 2012 along Penn Avenue in Wilkinsburg as a part of the Wilkinsburg TreeVitalize Project. Through our pruning efforts, we worked to remove damaged, diseased, and dead branches and enhance the trees’ natural forms, helping to ensure that they thrive in the urban environment and are able grow to their full potential.

As these trees continue to grow for decades to come, they will not only beautify and add needed public green space to the Wilkinsburg business district, but will also help reduce stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution entering Nine Mile Run. So, a big thank you to Jake Milofsky and Kevin Tang from Tree Pittsburgh for partnering with us for this workshop, and to all of the dedicated watershed Tree Tenders who volunteered their time on a windy Saturday morning. It’s because of you that these projects are ultimately a success!

 


If you are interested in helping to care for trees in the watershed this Spring, please visit our Upcoming Events page to see other tree care events that we have coming up!

17
Mar

Check out StormWorks‘ announcement about their new and improved rain container design below. They need your help naming it, so put your thinking caps on & you could win one for free!

 

Help name the new StormWorks rain container – the winner receives one for FREE (a $450 value)!

Rain Barrel - REV1.6 - design 2 - top2

A mockup of what the new rain container will look like. The new container will be available for purchase in mid-May!

From now until Friday, March 28th, StormWorks is soliciting help from creative minds around Pittsburgh to help us come up with a name for our new rain container! The winning selection will receive a free StormWorks property consultation, one 116 gallon ‘still-to-be-named’ rain container, and free delivery/installation! All contest entries must be received through Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Twitter: @StormWorksPGH, must use hashtag “#StormWorksContest”
Facebook: Like us on Facebook and post your idea to our wall
Email: Use subject line “StormWorks Naming Contest” and send to

StormWorks has been working with rain barrels for a little over 8 years, field testing new designs, experimenting with new accessories, listening to clients’ feedback, and conducting research. During this time, we’ve been trying to understand and perfect how rain barrels are designed, perceived, sited, and installed. We learned that it is time for an affordable rain collection system designed to fit with the edges, corners, and flat surfaces of a house; the new StormWorks rain container has a slim, modern design that can fit in narrow spaces between houses or shared walkways, behind shrubs, or neatly up against or in a tight area of your house to blend in with your landscape.

rain_barrel_illustration_home_specs

Our new rain collector is designed to fit the edges, corners, and flat surfaces of your home or business.

Manufactured in Erie, PA with recycled UV-Stabilized polyethylene, our new container has a capacity of 116 gallons to handle any size roof. It has multiple spigot and overflow openings, a removable mosquito-proof filter basket, and will be available in multiple colors to make it one of the most user-friendly and aesthetically-appealing rain harvesting containers on the market.

We’re gearing up for another busy summer helping Pittsburghers harvest rain water in a responsible way and a creative name is the last piece of the puzzle! Come up with the winning name and get the latest in rain harvesting technology and expertise for free!

About StormWorks

StormWorks is a social enterprise created to support the mission of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) by implementing responsible stormwater management techniques throughout the Nine Mile Run watershed and beyond its boundaries. StormWorks aims to further the work of NMRWA by meeting stormwater service needs at two key levels: a suite of stormwater management and mitigation services to the greater Pittsburgh area, and consultant services at regional levels. StormWorks specializes in providing various products and services, ranging from the installation of rain barrels and cisterns, the design and installation of rain gardens and permeable pavement, complete landscape design, and stormwater property consultations.

11
Mar

Today’s blog post comes from the Clean Rivers Campaign – an education & advocacy program designed to raise awareness of the stormwater runoff and sewage overflow issues in Allegheny County. NMRWA is one of the CRC’s six founding organizations.

These signs, which designate areas where sewage overflows can occur, are easy to find along Pittsburgh’s waterways. This one is on the South Side, adjacent to the public boat ramp next to the Birmingham Bridge.

These signs, which designate areas where sewage overflows can occur, are easy to find along Pittsburgh’s waterways. This one is on the South Side, adjacent to the public boat ramp next to the Birmingham Bridge.

Two years ago, the Clean Rivers Campaign launched an advocacy campaign to educate our elected officials and the public about the opportunity to create a sustainable and vibrant Pittsburgh by investing in a green first approach to solving our stormwater runoff and sewer overflow problems.

The response has been incredible – Pittsburghers recognize it’s good for families, workers, and the environment to maximize our largest ever public investment to stop water pollution AND solve multiple community needs at the same time.

Recent events show that our advocacy has paid off! A few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that ALCOSAN’s current, gray infrastructure-only plan for solving our region’s water quality problems was “deficient.”

Rain gardens, like this one in front of the Edgewood train station, are one type of green solution that can be used to help curb sewer overflows in Pittsburgh.

Mayor Peduto responded with enthusiastic agreement, and we now have a real opportunity to build a “green first” plan for the Pittsburgh region that maximizes investment in green solutions, reinvests in neighborhoods, and creates family sustaining jobs. THEN we can looks to what complimentary gray strategies are needed to meet full water quality compliance.

But our work is far from over. Just recently, ALCOSAN reported that the Department of Justice (who serves as the legal representative for the EPA) has indicated a willingness to renegotiate the Consent Decree and to reach a new agreement by April—a very short window of opportunity!

We know that EPA officials have been flexible in allowing other cities to prioritize green solutions. But, ALCOSAN has shown that they lack the vision needed to make a “green first” strategy successful and to make large-scale green solutions a reality, we need visionary leadership at ALCOSAN. We also need compelling local data to guide implementation, and sustained public pressure to hold ALCOSAN accountable.

These three critical pieces stand between the choice to bury billions of public dollars under our rivers or to invest that money in ways that will create clean water, healthy communities, and economic opportunities for generations to come.

We need your help. And we need to act fast.

More than 175 people came out to our campaign launch during Summer 2012. We asked the EPA to let us prioritize green solutions, and all our hard work is starting to pay off! Thank you!

More than 175 people came out to our campaign launch during Summer 2012. We asked the EPA to let us prioritize green solutions, and all our hard work is starting to pay off! Thank you!

You stood with us at ALCOSAN public hearings and Beyond Tunnel Vision presentations. We need you to stand with us now as we keep up the pressure, educate our policy makers, and hold our leaders accountable to building a sustainable and equitable green-first sewer plan.

We also need your help to raise funds for something no one else has done—a study demonstrating the water quality improvements and community benefits that could result in from a green-first investment in the Pittsburgh region. This information will help leaders and advocates make the case for a “green first” plan.

We are calling on our supporters—you—to show your support for green solutions, bycontributing what you can to make the study happen.

In a recent letter to the Clean Rivers Campaign, Cynthia Giles, the Assistance Administrator for Compliance from the EPA wrote:

“Given the multiple benefits, EPA encourages the use of green infrastructure to the maximum extent possible. The EPA is supportive of, but cannot compel communities to employ green infrastructure practices. Communities can, however, propose the use of green infrastructure in their wet weather plans. We encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas on green infrastructure with ALCOSAN.”

Our work over the past two years has shown that Pittsburgh does want to go green. Now it’s time to make it happen. Please visit our IOBY crowdfunding campaign at: https://www.ioby.org/project/green-first-burgh

Thank you!

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