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Posts Tagged ‘water quality

27
May

As you may have seen in our Spring newsletter, since 2013 we have been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) on a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. One of the goals of our partnership on this grant was to develop a culture of stewardship for the Nine Mile Run watershed by engaging a wide range of ages in citizen science and stewardship activities. One way we approached this was to implement PPC’s Mission Ground Truth (MGT) program at Wilkinsburg Middle School.

MGT is an interdisciplinary ecosystem assessment program mapped to PA state academic standards for 7th and 8th grade students that includes in-class discovery activities as well as a field trip to Frick Park. During the field trip, students get to be ecologists for the day, and have the opportunity to use the same tools and sampling methods that scientists use to evaluate the health of forest and stream ecosystems.

Recently, NMRWA staff worked for two days in Frick Park with Environmental Educators from PPC to help lead the Wilkinsburg Middle School students through the field day programming.

Jared, Mike, & the students get ready for a leaf race!

Jared, Mike, & the students get ready for a leaf race!

We began each morning by discussing goals for the day, then broke into small groups. During the morning session, the groups each explored a section of the Fern Hollow stream while discussing questions such as “how can ecologists detect and measure pollution in a stream?” and “what benefits do humans and animals get from streams?” Then the students recorded data on physical and chemical water quality characteristics, such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and velocity. Next, we explored the benthic macroinvertebrate populations by carefully overturning rocks and collecting samples using a net. To wrap up, we would discuss how everything tied together by asking questions like “based on the data we collected, is the stream healthy or unhealthy?“and “how does the quality of Fern Hollow affect the health of Nine Mile Run?

Mike & a student measure the diameter of a tree.

Mike & a student measure the diameter of a tree.

After a break for lunch, the students got to venture into the forest for a deeper look at the complex forest ecology present in Frick Park. We identified different tree and plant species and talked about the various ecosystem services that forests provide to animals, streams, and people. We asked questions like “why is biodiversity important in forests?” and “how is the health of this forest related to the health of Fern Hollow and Nine Mile Run?” Then the students used forestry tools to collect data on the location, size, and type of trees, and we looked for evidence of Asian long-horned beetles. To wrap up, we asked questions similar to the morning session, like “is this section of the forest healthy or unhealthy?

Over the course of the two days, we had a wonderful & enriching experience working with the students and with the PPC staff. Thank you to Mike, Taiji, Steve, and Chelsea for their expertise & enthusiasm in implementing the MGT programming!

04
Feb

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.

RRRPWe 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.

RRRP sitesThe 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!

05
Nov

People are often surprised to learn that yes, there are fish living in Nine Mile Run and in fact… there are rather a LOT of them!

Led by NMRWA Monitoring Committee members Brady Porter and Michael Koryak, fish sampling is performed on an annual basis, typically in the fall. Since the stream restoration was completed in 2006, their data have shown marked improvement in the number and diversity of fish in the stream.

Immediately post-restoration, the entire stream was electro-fished and only 116 fish comprising seven different species were found. Today, it’s impossible to sample the entire length of the stream in one day due to the number of fish and time it would take to process them all! Modafinil  http://www.wolfesimonmedicalassociates.com/modafinil/

For example, last Wednesday, NMRWA Monitoring Committee members and other volunteers sampled for fish in lower Nine Mile Run. Beginning at the mouth of the stream near Duck Hollow in the morning, and traveling upstream to finish just below the pedestrian bridge in the late afternoon, we caught nearly 2,300 fish comprising 17 different species! This is the second highest species count ever found in this section of the stream – 21 species were found in 2011.

Additionally, we found two new species that had never been collected from Nine Mile Run before: Gizzard shad and Silverjaw minnows. The addition of these two species brings the total species count of fish collected from this stretch of Nine Mile Run since 1999 to 30!

This week, barring inclement weather, we will finish our fish sampling for the year when we sample a section of the stream in the main part of Frick Park. Aurogra online http://www.healthfirstpharmacy.net/aurogra.html

As always, thanks to Brady and Mike and all the volunteers who help make this important sampling effort happen!

Want to learn more about our stream monitoring work? Head on over to our monitoring page for more information and nifty, interactive data maps!

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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28
Mar
Gina shows the NMRWA staff a mosaic that represents the PWSA treatment plant facilities.

Gina shows the NMRWA staff a mosaic in the entryway that represents the PWSA treatment plant facilities.

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.

During this step of the treatment process, water is filtered to remove organic particulate matter.

During this step of the treatment process, water is filtered to remove organic particulate matter.

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.

NMRWA staff listen to Gina explain a step in the water treatment process.

NMRWA staff listen to Gina explain a step in the water treatment process.

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.

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