This October, NMRWA was fortunate to strengthen our partnership with the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) by providing a real-life learning laboratory for students and international visitors. In spring semester of 2017 we worked with Professor Marcela Gonzalez’s class, “City and Region, Theory and Practice”, as part of a group of nonprofits that hosted student-led projects. Two of our staff members, Michael Hiller and Maureen Copeland, coordinated a project that analyzed the Rosedale Runoff Reduction Project (RRRP) through a triple-bottom-line assessment. The resulting study provided a baseline to develop a custom calculator.
We were excited when Professor Gonzalez approached Mike Hiller again in the summer of 2017 to work more comprehensively with her fall semester of 2018 capstone class, “Policy Planning in Developing Countries”. The course was coordinated with a capstone course in the University of los Andes in Bogota, Columbia. The entire course of GSPIA students were assigned to work with NMRWA, specifically on the RRRP. The research projects include developing a triple-bottom-line calculator, analyzing the tree canopy, and comparison of other planning projects related to the RRRP. Additionally, the students were asked to think about how these problems and solutions could be translated on a global scale. This question is especially important as University of los Andes embarks on a series of water quality projects in Villapinzón, a small community outside of Bogota. Villapinzón has heavy industry, with large leather factories that create polluted waterways.
In the spring semester of 2019, GSPIA students will visit Villapinzón to learn about their local project. However, the local community leaders, students, and faculty from University of Andes visited Pittsburgh first, in October, to learn about our work. So it was with great pleasure that we welcomed these international visitors to the watershed, giving them a tour of the NMR Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project and the RRRP. We also tagged along on a tour of the Center for Coalfield Justice in Washington, PA to learn about how the local waterways are being polluted in a rural area of Pittsburgh.
Thank you to Professor Gonzalez, University of Pittsburgh students, University of los Andes students and faculty, the community leaders of Villapinzón, and the Center for Coalfield Justice! We truly enjoyed our time together, and look forward to future opportunities to work together and exchange information on a global scale.
Everything that we do here at NMRWA is only made possible through the continued involvement of local municipal leaders, community groups, and residents. Over the years we have developed programs to empower each of these stakeholders to help improve the water quality of Nine Mile Run. One of our most recent projects, the NMR Stormwater Partnership, provides an opportunity for us to formalize these relationships while meeting the standards of a PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) program.
The program, administered by the DEP, prescribes that every municipality that discharges stormwater from their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) must meet the EPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit standards. This program is vital for helping control and reduce the amount of stormwater discharged from our storm sewer system into our local ecosystems. The Boroughs of Edgewood, Swissvale, and Wilkinsburg each must enter into a new permit every five years, with their next permit cycle beginning in 2018.
With this opportunity ahead, in 2016 the three boroughs, NMRWA, and several partners (Allegheny County Conservation District, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, PA Department of Transportation, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, and Three Rivers Wet Weather) decided to form the NMR Stormwater Partnership. The mission statement of the partnership is to “cooperatively conduct community outreach and engagement to meet and exceed the requirements of the PA MS4 Permit”. We are currently working to achieve this through engaging, educating, and empowering specific audiences and stakeholders.
The Partnership meets every other month to share resources and develop programs/projects around improving the water quality of NMR, the approach for which is outlined in the NMR Stormwater Partnership Plan. Other items in the plan include creating shared communications platforms like our new webpage, special events, unique educational approaches, and several campaigns such as anti-litter, Pups4Clean Water, and the native plants campaign. Each of these programs will discuss stormwater at the watershed level, bringing accountability into the home and the community. Success can only be measured by how many residents are empowered to become better environmental stewards, so please join us in this new effort!