Volunteers and Nine Mile Run staff set out this past Saturday morning to weed and mulch over two dozen trees along the Port Authority’s Busway Linear Park along Edgewood Avenue in Swissvale. Armed with gloves, shovels, and wheelbarrows, the group got right to work improving the tree pits after a brief overview from NMR staff member Jared Manzo.
The weather was chilly and traffic along the road was a bit intimidating but the volunteers were not deterred! Volunteers assiduously removed weeds that compete for soil nutrients, and spread mulch at an even depth making sure to pull a few inches back any mulch from around the trunks of the tree.
By the end of the event, we had tended 24 of the 28 maple trees. NMRWA staff finished the final four trees the following week. Thank you to Veltre’s Pizza in Swissvale and Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill for the donated refreshments for volunteers.
NMRWA is extending their effort to benefit these trees by undertaking a tree pit expansion project. One of the greatest challenges for street trees is a lack of adequate soil volume. With Port Authority of Allegheny County’s permission, we are removing a strip of concrete to connect existing tree pits in pairs. Thirteen sites have been identified. Six will be completed in the remainder of 2015 with the other seven completed in 2016. The purpose of the project is to create more area for water infiltration and rooting space. Hopefully, this work will equate to larger, healthier, and longer lived trees.
If you are interested in helping trees in Swissvale, we will be planting trees this coming Saturday, November 14th, 2015 along Columbia Avenue, Delaware Avenue, and the Universal Academy of Pittsburgh. This will be our last tree event of the year so please come out and help us finish strong!
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!
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!
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.
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.