We were pleased to have the opportunity yesterday to host Thomas Hylton for a tour of our urban forestry work, and some of the other green infrastructure projects we have completed in the watershed. Tom is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist from Pottstown, PA, the founder of Trees. Inc, and the President of Save Our Lands, Save Our Towns. He was in Pittsburgh to present at a Post-Agenda session for Pittsburgh City Council on Sidewalk Materials, called by Councilwoman Deb Gross.
He shared with Council members the innovative work that has been done in Pottstown over the last 20 years to preserve the life of large, mature street trees by re-thinking how to handle tree & sidewalk conflicts. He challenged the idea that concrete is the ideal material for sidewalks, showing how even in the absence of trees, it is prone to cracking, and spalling, and before long panels become uneven, leading to tripping hazards. In many parts of the world asphalt is the standard material used for sidewalks, and it is much more friendly to trees because it is flexible. It is also easier and cheaper to repair when repairs are needed. It can be painted with slip-proof paint so the surface will stay cool in the summer – the product used to mark out bike lanes in cities around the world.
Pottstown is also experimenting with porous materials such as Flexi-Pave. Many of you know that
NMRWA completed the first installation of this material, made of recycled tires, gravel, and polyurethane, in Southwestern PA in 2011 on S. Trenton Ave. across the street from what is now Biddle’s Escape Coffee Shop. It can infiltrate a remarkable amount of water – only in the most severe storms is any runoff produced.
Right now porous materials like Flexi-Pave are considerably more expensive than concrete, because few people or municipalities are using them. If usage increased, the price would come down. However, asphalt is cheaper than concrete and clearly preferable for a variety of reasons.
Hopefully one day soon Pittsburgh can become as progressive as Pottstown and update its ordinance that currently requires sidewalks to be constructed of concrete. It would be great to see experimentation with a variety of solutions that benefit our urban forest infrastructure, which is becoming more important than ever as we begin to experience directly the effects of climate change.
Thanks to Tom Hylton for sharing his insights and experience with us!
Did you know? There are 3 employees at NMRWA named Sara(h)! We don’t always know which one someone is talking to but we always have fun with it.
It can be a challenge sometimes to differentiate between Sara, Sara and Sarah or Sara P and Sarah P, so we thought we would help you out.
We created a little game to get to know the 3 Sara(h)s better. Each Sara(h) answered the same five questions about themselves. Below are the questions and the Sara(h)s’ answers. Read the question and think about which answer you most identify with. Keep track of your responses and at the bottom, you will find a key that will tell you which Sara(h) you most relate to. You can also see what the other two Sara(h)s answered to learn a little more about them. Okay, let’s get started!
1. What is your favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh?
A. Il Pizzaiolo
B. Spak Brothers
C. Mad Mex
2. What is your favorite book, TV show and movie?
A. A Walk Across America, Breaking Bad, and The Life Aquatic
B. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 30 Rock, and Almost Famous
C. Harry Potter, The West Wing, The Birdcage
3. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would it be?
A. Tour the country of Iceland
C. Victoria Falls
4. Tea, coffee or hot chocolate?
B. Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
5. What is the last thing you ate?
A. North African Yam Salad from the Co-op
C. Kale salad
If you answered mostly A: you identify most with Sara Madden, the Design Manager for Stormworks.
If you answered mostly B: you identify most with Sarah Peterson, the Communications Program Assistant for NMRWA
If you answered mostly C: you identify most with Sara Powell, the Monitoring and Communications Manager for NMRWA
Which Sara(h) did you get matched with?
We hope this helped distinguish the Sara(h)s a bit more and that it was fun in the process! If you ever see us around the watershed (or our favorite restaurants) be sure to say hi!
Whoops! Sorry for going radio silent the past three months or so… Summer is always a busy time here at NMRWA, but that’s no excuse. Now that Fall is on the way, we’re ready to get back on a regular blogging schedule!
In the coming months, we’ll be posting about NMRWA events and workdays, information about native plants and animals, lists of other upcoming watershed community events, and more, so stay tuned.
Here are a couple snapshots to help recap our summer…
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.
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.
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.