Archive for 2019

Josie on a monitoring visit with Girty’s Run Watershed Association and the Pitt Water Collaboratory

Hello, my name is Josie and I recently graduated from Duquesne University with a Master of Science in Environmental Science & Management with a concentration in Conservation Biology. This summer, I am working with water quality monitoring data at the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA). Specifically, I am developing an aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling protocol for NMRWA. I am also collecting macroinvertebrate community data at Girty’s Run and Montour Run to compare Nine Mile Run with other urban watersheds. When I am not collecting data, I am updating and analyzing water quality data from previous years to help assess the progress of restoration at Nine Mile Run.

I grew up in the Laurel Mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and started appreciating wildlife and the environment as a child. My backyard was a forested area with a small creek, and I remember playing there and collecting and identifying small organisms using encyclopedias and field guides local bookstores. At a young age, I realized that I had a passion for conservation and learning about wildlife. This opportunity at NMRWA allows me to explore my passion and apply the knowledge I have learned from my six years of education on environmental science.

In my stream field biology course, I helped collect and identify macroinvertebrates at Raccoon Creek with the Allegheny County Conservation District to see the impact of erosion on macroinvertebrate communities. Working on this project taught me how macroinvertebrate community structures can indicate the quality of a watershed, since there are specific organisms that are sensitive to pollution and environmental stress. While I was at Duquesne University, I collected water samples for 3 Rivers QUEST and I learned about water chemistry and sources of water pollution. These experiences allowed me to learn about monitoring watersheds by observing water chemistry and aquatic organisms in the field, and I am eager to learn more about watershed monitoring at NMRWA.

I thoroughly enjoy working at NMRWA because they are committed to restoring and protecting the environment and community. This organization has welcomed me onto their team and has allowed me to learn about the environmental efforts in Pittsburgh. I am learning that successful restoration requires consistent monitoring and commitment to improve water quality.

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I was recently shopping for plants for my shady yard, and after a quick discussion with a friendly nursery employee, I had two seemingly great options: Periwinkle and English Ivy.  They would cover the area fast and would thrive even in the low-light conditions I described. There was one problem: they are both invasive plants. 

An invasive plant is a non-native species that spreads rapidly through an ecosystem, often choking-out native vegetation.  Many invasive plants leaf-out earlier than their native counterparts, blocking much-needed sunlight, and making it more challenging for seeds to germinate.  Unfortunately, it is very easy to purchase invasive plants for your yard or garden, as many nurseries still carry them.  Here are a few you should avoid planting if at all possible: Bishop’s Weed (also called Snow on the Mountain), Periwinkle (aka vinca), English Ivy, Callery Pear, Japanese Barberry, European Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle vine, and Multiflora Rose. 

While often slower growing, there are many native plant options for your yard.  There are even nurseries here in Pittsburgh that specialize in them. So, lend nature a hand, and think native when it comes to landscaping!

Lindsey Rose Flowers

Restoration and Stewardship Coordinator

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Duck Hollow, a small neighborhood near the mouth of Nine Mile Run, is getting a new bridge that will allow public safety vehicles to access the neighborhood. See article. Construction has started, and it is very noticeable from Old Browns Hill Road. We at Nine Mile Run Watershed Association love that so many individuals are watching the stream closely and letting us know when you spot something unusual. We appreciate you!

This project has been a long time coming – with public stakeholder meetings, permit reviews, and notifications from the contractors. What is happening is permitted by the Allegheny County Conservation District and the Department of Environmental Protection. Some things you might notice if you’re in the area:

  1. A limestone rock berm has been built to allow equipment to move back and forth across the stream, without ripping up the stream bottom. Two large pipes run through the berm to allow water to move from upstream of the berm to the downstream side. This structure is temporary, and will be removed when the project is completed!
  2. Orange tubes, filled with compost or mulch, are lining the site. These tubes, called filter socks, hold back sediment and absorb pollutants while allowing rain water to filter through. Since sediment is the number one pollutant of our streams, sediment control is a critical and required part of all construction projects.
  3. Large amounts of earth moving has happened, to get the ground to the elevation needed to support the bridge.
  4. Exercise caution if you are traveling down to the Duck Hollow parking lot by car, bike, or on foot. The road narrows near the construction site.As always, if you see anything in Nine Mile Run that you are unsure about, you can always reach out to the staff at NMRWA. We appreciate your ongoing help.
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Sewer laterals are the pipes that connect your house to the main sewer line. It is important for them to be in good condition for 2 basic reasons:

  1. To keep sewage in so that it can be safely transported to ALCOSAN, our regional sewer treatment plant. Although there are some perks of a leaky sewer lateral (fertilizer), it generally is not considered good. One sign that your lateral might not be in great condition is spots of lush green vegetation in your yard.
  2. To keep stormwater and groundwater out. I&I (Inflow & Infiltration) is the lingo in the stormwater/sewer world. I&I is a large part of why our sewers are overwhelmed in rain events. Infiltration is when rain and groundwater enters cracked sewer pipes, including laterals. Inflow is when stormwater and groundwater enter through downspouts and catch basins. During wet weather, I&I can add as much as 3,000 gallons of stormwater per person per day to the sewer system. This is quite the burden on an already overwhelmed system.

So how can you help? Keeping your laterals in good condition is key, and, in most communities, homeowners are responsible for the line from the house to the curb. (Each community is different though, so check your plumbing code!) Sewer pipes have an average design life of 50 years. Since so many homes in the area are older than that it’s important to keep an eye on your laterals.

NMRWA is hosting a educational session to help homeowners understand their responsibilities and options when it comes to repairing their pipes. Join us May 23rd at 6:00pm at 900 Wood Street, 2nd Floor, in downtown Wilkinsburg for Water Talks: Laterals & Lagers. Drinks and light refreshments provided.

Learn more about this infrastructure here.

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Hello! My name is John, and I am a junior environmental science student at the University of Pittsburgh. This past semester, I have been working on an interactive display of the restoration project which reconfigured Nine Mile Run and parts of Frick Park.

I wanted to get involved with Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) because I was inspired by how dedicated and passionate this group is about improving urban water quality. This organization seems to me like part of a greater recommitment by people around Pittsburgh towards restoring our city’s natural beauty.

Conservation has always been important to me, and being an Eastern PA native I grew up enjoying preserved land areas like Stroud Preserve. When I started going to school in Pittsburgh, Frick Park quickly became one of my favorite local spots for mountain biking. Since then I’ve rode over and next to Nine Mile Run countless times, enjoying this oasis of nature in the urban setting.

Clean water has been an interest of mine ever since I moved to Pittsburgh and learned of the challenges urban streams are facing. Also, this past summer I spent much of my time wading in streams while interning for the PA Department of Environmental Protection. These previous experiences blended perfectly in my work with NMRWA, where I could help display innovative solutions to issues of urban stream health.

Using ArcGIS, and past reports on the restoration project, I created maps displaying impervious cover, culvert systems, stream channel reconfiguration, and wetland creation and modification. Along with my maps, the display includes historical photos of the creation of Pittsburgh’s sewer systems from over 85 years ago!

I am grateful to have learned so much about the restoration project in Nine Mile Run, and to be able to learn from leaders in sustainable development. One important takeaway from my experience is that stewardship is never over, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of keeping Nine Mile Run healthy and beautiful!

My ArcGIS story map will be up on the Nine Mile Run website sometime soon, so be on the lookout!

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