The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is trying to make stormwater management affordable, beautiful and easily accessible through a home-renovations program available to city residents.
PHS’s Zach Popkin detailed the Rain Check program during the monthly meeting of the Normandy Civic Association on Sept. 6 at Norcom Community Center. Rain Check is a partnership between PHS and the Sustainable Business Network. The Philadelphia Water Department provides the funding.
Stormwater poses a serious threat to water quality in the city’s streams and by extension the public health, Popkin said. Like most major cities, Philadelphia’s landscape has become largely impervious to precipitation due to paving and construction. During the industrial era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, the city used most of its pre-existing streambeds to construct closed sewers. While this mitigated some of the immediate concerns of open sewers, such as the spread of disease, it permanently altered the city’s capacity to disperse stormwater naturally.
Now, when rain hits buildings and pavement, it collects pollutants and carries them into the sewers. In most of the city, the same sewer pipes carry stormwater as well as human wastewater to treatment plants where the water is cleaned and returned to the city’s rivers.
In most of the Northeast, the sewers use a dual or separate system. One network of pipes carries wastewater. A separate network carries stormwater.
Yet both types of sewer systems are vulnerable to major storm events, when the volume of water entering the system exceeds the capacity of the pipes and causes them to discharge untreated water directly into natural waterways.
That’s where home-based stormwater management can help. According to Popkin, the idea is to get homeowners to retain stormwater on their properties to reduce the short-term demand on public sewers.
Rain barrels are the most basic way residents can participate in Rain Check. PHS, through its partner contractors, will supply and install a plastic, blue 55-gallon barrel that connects to the homeowner’s downspout. The work is free to the homeowner. When it rains, water collects in the barrel. After the storm, the homeowner can open a valve to let the water run into the nearest storm drain. Homeowners may also use the water for chores like watering plants or washing the car. The water is not suitable for drinking, bathing or gardens that produce fruit or vegetables.
Meanwhile, PHS offers up to $2,000 in funding toward several other types of home improvements. Homeowners can hire a PHS contractor to install rain gardens, downspout planters or permeable paving. Homeowners can also get funding to have concrete, asphalt or other impervious surface removed from their yards.
PHS will schedule a property assessment for $25. Rain barrels are available without an assessment, although there are some minimum requirements regarding the configuration of the space. Visit phillywatersheds.org/raincheck or call 215–988–8767 for information.
In other Normandy Civic business:
The civic association invites the public to a designer bag bingo game at Norcom Community Center, 10980 Norcom Road, on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $35 and are available on Facebook. The event page is named “Bingo for Kors and Coach Bags.”
The civic association will host its annual Halloween party for children on Saturday, Oct. 29, from noon to 3 p.m. at Norcom Community Center.
In response to questions about the redevelopment of the former Nabisco plant at Roosevelt Boulevard and Byberry Road, a City Council aide reported that the property owner has been meeting with leaders of the Somerton Civic Association.
Peggy Recupido, an aide to Councilman Brian O’Neill, said that Somerton Civic will likely be the lead organization on any zoning issues because the former Nabisco property is on the west side of Roosevelt Boulevard. However, Normandy residents are welcome to participate in any public meetings or hearings involving the site. The Somerton Civic Association was scheduled to hold its monthly meeting on Sept. 13. Future meetings will be held on the second Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Walker Lodge 306, 1290 Southampton Road.
The next Normandy Civic meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at Norcom Community Center. ••