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Nine Mile Run blog

04
Jun

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.

Nine Mile Run Watershed Walking Tour

The Clean Rivers Campaign has partnered with Venture Outdoors to create a series of walking tours called the Neighborhood Eco Walking Tour series. Each tour is an opportunity for anyone to learn more about green infrastructure and how it can benefit a community.

CRC kicked off the series with a tour in Millvale, PA last month.  You can read about that tour in our last blog post, here.

The tour begins at the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association’s office in Wilkinsburg.

The tour begins at the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association’s office in Wilkinsburg.

Last Saturday, we held our second tour in the Nine Mile Run watershed. As a partner organization in the Clean Rivers Campaign, the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) has been working to stop water pollution and solve multiple community needs by investing in green solutions. After some brief introductions at the NMRWA office, the tour took time to learn about Stormworks’ new rain container, the Hydra. You can read more about the slim and innovative design of the Hydra, here. Holding 116 gallons of water, the Hydra will catch rain water before it can enter our sewer system and eliminate runoff on owners’ properties.

 

A sign at the permeable pavement on Trenton Avenue explains how the installation works.

A sign at the permeable pavement on Trenton Avenue explains how the installation works.

The tour then moved a few feet from the office to a section of permeable pavement at the corner of Trenton Ave and Biddle Ave in Wilkinsburg. NMRWA installed this permeable pavement several years ago to reduce the runoff into Trenton Ave and the rest of the watershed. Made from recycled rubber tires, the several feet of pavement doesn’t interrupt pedestrian or residential traffic. The durability of the material was evident in comparison to the surrounding cracked and broken pieces of concrete.

 

The tour stops at the permeable pavement, installed by Stormworks, on Trenton Avenue.

The tour stops at the permeable pavement, installed by Stormworks, on Trenton Avenue.

Next, the tour stepped across the street to Biddle’s Escape coffee shop. There, Stormworks installed a stormwater planter last summer. Similar to a rain garden, a stormwater planter contains plants that effectively absorb rain water. The plants are housed in a container that rests on the ground. This project was great for Biddle’s Escape as they do not have land where a rain garden could have been installed. The building’s downspout empties into the planter to quench the plants and divert the water from running off into the street. Joe, the owner of Biddle’s Escape, joined the tour to talk about the shop and the different events they offer. Stormworks was able to work with Joe to complete the rain planter and add another stormwater solution to the community.

NMRWA employee Sara explains how the stormwater planter at Biddle’s Escape works.

NMRWA employee Sara explains how the stormwater planter at Biddle’s Escape works.

The tour moved on to visit a few street trees in Wilkinsburg. NMRWA’s Greenlinks program seeks to improve the community greenspaces and urban forest of the Nine Mile Run watershed. Since its inception, GreenLinks has added nearly 900 trees to the watershed, which are actively managing thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff each year. Tour participants were able to stop at a few trees to learn how they manage stormwater as well as the threats that they often face. In the US, many trees have been affected by the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle that kills Ash trees. NMRWA has been working hard to mitigate the effects of this problem by looking for alternative tree species that will thrive.

 

A few of the street trees that tour participants learned about.

A few of the street trees that tour participants learned about.

Participants travelled just a few blocks to learn about two rain gardens in the area. A watershed resident, Janis, joined the tour to talk about the rain garden that was installed at her home. Several years ago, Janis purchased her home and had to remove a large tree from her yard. The roots of the tree and the shape of her yard created runoff problems for Janis. She contacted Stormworks and they were able to install a rain garden that wraps around the side of her home. Solving the runoff problems and adding aesthetic appeal to her yard (at one-third the price of conventional landscaping!) the rain garden has proved itself beneficial. With minimal maintenance, Janis is able to enjoy her garden fully.

Finally, the tour stopped at a rain garden located in front of the Biddle Building, on Braddock Ave, next to the tennis courts. Also installed by Stormworks, the garden has absorbed rain runoff on the park’s campus for a number of years. Here, tour participants also learned about NMRWA’s monitoring work. To ensure the organization’s past work to restore Nine Mile Run’s water quality, they have efforts in place to monitor the quality of the water on a monthly basis. Overall, they have seen the quality continue to improve. Just a few years ago, only a few fish could be found in the waters of Nine Mile Run. Today, thousands of fish, from many different species, can be found thriving in the water. This is a tremendously good sign that the water quality has been restored in the run.

A great shot of Janis’ beautiful rain garden!

A great shot of Janis’ beautiful rain garden!

The tour’s 20 participants were able to learn a lot from many different types of green infrastructure projects that have now been in place for an extended period of time. The balance of residential and commercial properties on the tour allowed participants to image what might be possible in their homes and communities.

As you may know, this tour is part of a series. Running through September, a tour will be offered on the last Saturday of every month, each in a different area of the Pittsburgh region. Next up, we will visit Etna to learn about their green infrastructure projects. You can find out more or register by visiting: http://cleanriverscampaign.org/get-involved/upcoming-events/. Please contact Sarah at with any questions.

07
May

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.

Clean Rivers Campaign Happy Hour

Last Thursday, May 1st, the Clean Rivers Campaign hosted a Happy Hour. This event was an opportunity for the campaign and its supporters to meet, mingle, network and celebrate the success of the campaign over the last two years. Borelli Edwards Gallery on Butler Street in Lawrenceville hosted the Happy Hour. The gallery was simultaneously hosting the art of Cynthia Cooley’s exhibit Pittsburgh Evolves: Looking Back, Looking Forward. Cynthia’s beautiful paintings of Pittsburgh landscapes, scenes and landmarks provided a unique and relevant background for the conversations of the Happy Hour. Old and familiar faces made up the great turnout. Check out a few pictures below of attendees showing their support for the campaign. You can see more pictures on Clean Rivers Campaign’s Facebook page.

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30
Apr

Earth Day was technically Tuesday, April 22nd, but NMRWA staff members were busy this past weekend with several Earth Day events happening throughout Pittsburgh…

Clean Rivers Campaign’s Earth Day 2014 Walking Tour

This walking tour of Millvale was the first in a series organized by the Clean Rivers Campaign and Venture Outdoors to highlight green infrastructure projects and opportunities throughout the region.

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Participants learn about the rain garden behind the Millvale library. This rain garden catches, absorbs, and filters water from the library’s roof before it can flow into Girty’s Run.

Millvale, PA has made great strides in incorporating green infrastructure into the borough. Located along the Allegheny River, Millvale is susceptible to flooding, particularly from Girty’s Run which flows through downtown. They suffered from a massive flood in 2004 which destroyed and damaged many homes and buildings.

Tired of sewage backing up in their basements and floods damaging their infrastructure, Millvale turned to green infrastructure to absorb the rainwater before it hits the sewer system.

The borough’s rain barrels, rain gardens, urban farm, street trees and bioswales all help prevent flooding in town. The tour started at the Millvale Library, with Councilman Brian Wolovich explaining how their green efforts came about from community interest. From solar panels on the roof to rain barrels and a rain garden in the backyard, the library is the first for Millvale and is also extremely sustainable.

Other tour stops included a large urban farm, the Millvale community gardens, and a large rain garden. The tour ended with delicious pastries in town and some participants walked up to Mt. Alvernia where Sister Donna spoke about their bioswales. For more pictures, visit the Clean Rivers Campaign Facebook page!

This was the first tour in a series of five, each in a different neighborhood. The series will continue in the Nine Mile Run watershed in late May. To learn more and to register for the tour, visit: http://cleanriverscampaign.org/get-involved/upcoming-events/

Tree Care & Comcast Cares Day at Dickson School

Other NMRWA staff joined Comcast employees for a volunteer day at Dickson School in Swissvale. Over 30 Comcast employees joined students and parents of students from Dickson School to care for trees and a community garden on the school’s campus. As part of the Comcast Cares day, the attendees weeded and mulched trees, painted picnic tables, and weeded the community garden. NMRWA staff was on hand with tools and knowledge on how to properly care for the trees that were at the school.

The staff members then traveled to Washington and Noble Streets in Swissvale where they cared for street trees. Along with the borough and about six volunteers, staff members were able to care for trees throughout the downtown Swissvale area.

Mt. Lebanon Earth Day 2014

rain garden seed packet

Rain garden seed packet.

Stormworks staff & NMRWA Board Member Matt Wholey attended the Mt. Lebanon Earth Day on Saturday in Main Park. The event was a great success with live music, lots of great vendors and about 200 people in attendance. Even a Tesla was on display!

You may remember that Stormworks recently unveiled its new rain barrel – the StormWorks Hydra. Attendees were very interested in this innovative design, which you can read more about here. Staff also handed out packets filled with seeds from native rain garden plants!

 


As you can see, the weekend was a busy and productive one. Thanks to everyone who attended or helped out with these events this past weekend! We always enjoy seeing you out in the community and look forward to seeing you in the watershed soon.

14
Apr

We are pleased to announce the winner of our ‘name the new rain container’ contest – congratulations to Clif McGill!

Clif is an avid gardener, photographer, and a watershed resident that has been involved with Nine Mile Run and StormWorks for many years. He was up against some tough competition and it was a very difficult decision to make, but ultimately, we thought the Hydra was the best fit for our new container.

See some of Clif’s photos here!

Hydra’s are very cool looking! Here’s one little Hydra waving hello… (Photo: ubqool.com)

Hydra’s are very cool looking! Here’s one waving hello…
(Photo: ubqool.com)

Why did we choose Hydra?

Hydra is a genus of small, simple, fresh-water animals that possess radial symmetry. They can be found in most unpolluted rivers, streams and bodies of water in temperate and tropical regions.

Our mission is to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff entering our rivers and streams to create healthy habitats for small creatures, just like the hydra. When the smallest of organisms are thriving, our rivers and streams are on the path to becoming healthy ecosystems. We thought it was the perfect name for a container designed to help keep our rivers and streams free of pollution and promote a healthy, sustainable environment.

More info about the StormWorks Hydra

The Hydra is designed to fit with the flat surfaces of your home, and comes in a selection of colors!

The Hydra is designed to fit with the flat surfaces of your home.

We’ve 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, so the new StormWorks Hydra 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.

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.

Coming to a downspout near you in mid-May!

For more information, please contact Luke at  or 412-371-8779 x 120.

 

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
Apr

A recap of the UES Spring Invasives Workshop

This past Sunday, April 6, 2014, nearly forty enthusiastic volunteers attended the Spring Invasives Workshop in Lower Frick Park offered by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for Jake Baechle, Volunteer Coordinator for the Parks Conservancy, and Paul Yanulavich, Urban EcoSteward Coordinator and Arborist for NMRWA, to talk about the Urban EcoSteward program and the importance of invasive plant removal and its connection to biodiversity.

For example, did you know that many plants from the nursery that people use in their gardens are specifically bred to be pest-free? Unfortunately, many of these plants find their way into Pittsburgh’s parks, where they have an unfair advantage over native plants.

While these invasive, pest-free plants are problematic for numerous reasons, one big one is that they affect the reproduction and survival of butterflies and moths. Butterflies and moths are not only unable to eat these plants, but they also are unable to lay their eggs on them, since they will ultimately need to be eaten by the young caterpillars.

The monarch butterfly’s life cycle is closely tied to seasonal growth of milkweed, the only plant its larvae will eat. These pictures are from Frick Park! (Photos: John Moyer)

The monarch butterfly’s life cycle is closely tied to seasonal growth of milkweed, the only plant its larvae will eat. These pictures are from Frick Park!
(Photos: John Moyer)

One example of note is the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies’ main food source are native milkweed plants in the US & Mexico. Milkweed is the only plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on, which unfortunately is vanishing at a rapid rate, particularly in the Great Plains states along the Monarch butterfly’s migration route, due to increased use of herbicides. The effects on Monarch populations are alarming – at their peak in the 1990’s, Monarch butterflies occupied 45 acres of forest in the Mexican mountains; this past year they covered only 1.65 acres!

This lack of food and reproductive space for Monarchs as well as numerous other butterfly and moth species in turn affects bird populations. Adult birds can eat the berries of invasive plants, but their babies can only eat the soft butterfly and moth larvae usually found on the native plants these invasives are replacing.

Not all is gloom and doom, however. As participants at Sunday’s workshop learned, we can slow the rate of extinction and boost biodiversity and the food web by planting native plants, like milkweed, in our own backyards (and in the parks), and by removing the invasives that are taking their place.

Although not many plants (native or invasive) were coming up quite yet because of the late arrival of Spring, the group did manage to find plenty of emerging goutweed, garlic mustard, and mugwort plants to remove, and, as always, plenty of vines to cut away from our beautiful, native trees.

Thanks to all the Urban EcoStewards and other volunteers who helped to make the day a success, and to Jake Baechle and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Naturalist Mike Cornell for their knowledge, leadership, and insight.

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