Most of you are aware by now there is an issue of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) polluting Nine Mile Run. During wet weather, our watershed’s aging combined sewer systems do not have the capacity to handle both stormwater and sewage so they overflow into Nine Mile Run, introducing pathogens, trash, and other pollutants to the stream. We have actively worked to correct this issue through green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) interventions in the upper watershed over the last 14 years, including installing rain barrels and rain gardens and planting over 900 street trees.
Despite all of this effort, however, we still have degraded water quality during and after wet weather. When we developed our 2013-15 Strategic Plan there was one main goal: to reduce the flow of stormwater and sewage into Nine Mile Run.
We understood to achieve this goal we would need to install GSI facilities capable of capturing large quantities of stormwater before it enters the combined sewer system. In 2014, we worked with Matt Graham of Landbase Systems to identify areas in the watershed that have high amounts of stormwater flowing into curb inlets and eventually overflowing into Nine Mile Run. Through detailed analysis, he identified an area in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which is actually outside of the watershed, but is part of the Nine Mile Run sewershed, that contributes over 25 million gallons of stormwater and sewerage overflow to the stream annually during wet weather events.
In case you aren’t familiar, a sewershed is simply a drainage area determined by the curbs, storm drains, pipes, and outfalls that all drain to a common outlet (e.g., Nine Mile Run). It doesn’t match perfectly with the Nine Mile Run watershed boundary because sewersheds often cross the boundaries of watersheds that existed before urbanization.
The Rosedale Runoff Reduction Project (RRRP) is a holistic sustainable stormwater project with the goal to remove all 25 million gallons of overflow entering the stream. We will achieve this by constructing 3 large GSI sites, 40 stormwater management tree pits, 200 Hydra rain containers, and 10 rain gardens.
In October 2014, we were awarded $150,000 from PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) Watershed Restoration and Protection Program to construct one of the GSI sites. And most recently in January, we received notification that we were awarded $236,175 from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Growing Greener Program to construct a second site and install 200 Hydras. Both of these grant awards will allow us to implement the first phase of the RRRP, which proposes to remove 7 million gallons of annual runoff from the combined sewer system.
Stay tuned for proposed plans, details, schedule of implementation, and outreach events related to the RRRP!
It’s time for another edition of Meet the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association Staff!
You may remember we did another post about our staff called Meet the Newest NMRWA Staff Members! There, you got to know our GreenLinks Coordinator, Jared and Stormw0rks’ Regional Stormwater Strategist, Mo.
Since that blog post Brittany, the Managing Director of Stormworks, has joined us! Brittany answered 5 questions so you could get to know her a bit better.
We also asked Mike, our Director of Policy and Outreach 5 questions. Mike has worked at NMRWA since July 2013. Stay tuned for more blog posts in this series to get to know all NMRWA staff members!
Learn more about Brittany and Mike below!
Brittany joined the Stormworks team earlier this month. Brittany brings over five years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations from various start-ups to her new role as StormWorks Managing Director. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, with a focus in Marketing. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, baking, reading, skiing, and walking her dog.
1. Can you speak any other languages?
Brittany does not speak another language although she did take Latin in high school!
2. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would it be?
France because of all of the baked goods and the scenery. Brittany has already traveled to London.
3. What are your hobbies?
Brittany loves to read and play sports, especially tennis, golf and skiing. She also enjoys doing crafts as well as baking and cooking.
4. Draw your favorite animal.
Check out Brittany’s awesome drawing of a wolf below!
5. What is your favorite tree?
A White Oak. Brittany and her husband planted a white oak tree during their wedding ceremony!
Mike Joined NMRWA in July 2013 as the Director of Policy and Outreach. He has an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and a Master of Art degree in Geography with a Graduate Certificate in GIS & Spatial Analysis, both from the University at Albany. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Mike was the GIS Coordinator for the University at Albany, where he developed a campus-wide system of infrastructure. He also has experience as an urban planning consultant, working to create more sustainable regions and places. He is responsible for coordinating watershed communities and organizations to develop and implement green infrastructure projects. In his free time, Mike likes to explore new areas of Pittsburgh, hang out with his dog, and find fresh food at a farmer’s market.
1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A basketball or football player.
2. What is the last thing that you ate?
At the time of this interview, the last thing Mike had ate was a breakfast burrito with a side of grapes. This was thanks to an office wide breakfast burrito party that morning!
3. What is your most memorable NMRWA moment?
The first time Mike planted a tree in the watershed stood out to him. Mike has continued to plant many trees throughout the watershed during GreenLinks’ tree planting events as well as cared for many others during the tree care events.
4. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.
5. If you were a Superhero, what powers would you want to have?
To be able to fly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.