Green Infrastructure

Last month marked the fifth anniversary . . .

...of an agreement between the city of Philadelphia and environmental regulators to use green infrastructure instead of pipes and holding tanks to prevent polluted storwater from flooding into the city’s streams and rivers.

Green infrastructure

Philadelphia aims to capture stormwater where it falls. To do this, the city is planting more trees; putting “green” roofs on buildings; removing excess impervious surface and creating rain gardens; and using porous pavement which absorbs stormwater. Philadelphia is the largest American city to be certified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to use green infrastructure to control stormwater, but scores of other cities are also doing it.

20-year program

Philadelphia’s full effort will take another 20 years, but the results after five years show green infrastructure is working even better than expected.

Pottstown is next

Here in Pottstown, we should be paying close attention, because our borough is also under the gun to reduce the amount of stormwater -- especially polluted stormwater -- flowing into the Schuylkill River. Pottstown has 60 miles of streams that were arched over as Pottstown developed over the last 150 years. They are used to collect stormwater and direct it into the Manatawny Creek and Schuylkill River.

Stormwater also infiltrates Pottstown’s 70 miles of sanitary sewer lines, which can overwhelm the sewage treatment plant and allow untreated water to flow into the river. In addition, Pottstown has a problem with carcinogenic chemicals called PCBs, which are now banned but were used for decades in heavy industry.

Regulators will require Pottstown to keep PCBs out of the river. Last year, the Pottstown Borough Authority, which manages Pottstown’s water and sewer lines, hired an engineering firm to research and create a “stormwater master plan.”

Green infrastructure is proving to be the least expensive and most environmentally sound way to manage stormwater. It should be a major part of Pottstown's plan.

Arbor Day: Rotary's green gift

Last summer, the Pottstown Rotary Club planted a municipal nursery behind Pottstown High School. The initial planting consisted of 100 shade tree saplings. Rotarians, aided by Pottstown High School students in the Rotary’s Interact Club, will shortly plant 20 more saplings to replace trees that didn’t make it.


Edgewood Meadow growing

In 2017, the Pottstown School Board voted to convert three acres of grassy swale next to the former Edgewood Elementary School into a meadow. Three years later, the meadow is flourishing.


Mosaic's 'permaculture' garden (year later)

The Mosaic Community Land Trust is marking the first year of its  "permaculture garden" at Charlotte and Walnut streets. Community gardens are a vital component of "green infrastructure."


Walnut Street 'rain garden' (year later)

Pottstown's first sidewalk rain garden was planted in May 2015 on the Walnut Street side of the Pottstown School District administration building. A year later, it's thriving.