Water Dept. plans to install rain gardens at Wissinoming Park

The rain gardens will be part of a 25-year plan to reduce stormwater overflows in the city’s combined sewers.

The Philadelphia Water Department is planning to install rain gardens at Wissinoming Park and a nearby playground.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Wissinoming Civic Association on April 25, Philadelphia Water Outreach Specialist Hailey Stern reported that the park and playground improvements will be part of the city’s Green City, Clean Waters program, a 25-year plan to reduce stormwater overflows in the city’s combined sewers.

Combined sewers are underground pipes that carry wastewater and stormwater to the city’s treatment plants. Wastewater is the water that homes, business and other buildings discharge. Stormwater is precipitation that flows openly into the sewer system via public storm drains. In newer developed areas of the Northeast, wastewater sewers are separate from storm sewers. But combined sewers serve most of the city, including Wissinoming.

When major storm events occur, the volume of stormwater can exceed the capacity of the sewers, resulting in overflows that can contaminate natural streams in the area. The city is employing various methods to reduce the demand on combined sewers.

A rain garden is one of those methods. Though man-made, the feature is organic and will absorb stormwater, dispersing it into the surrounding soil naturally. The slow stormwater runoff, filter pollutants and contribute to irrigation and replenish the groundwater supply. Rain gardens can feature colorful flowers and attractive plants while providing habitats for birds and butterflies.

Renovations are underway in Wissinoming Park at Cheltenham Avenue and Charles Street. They will include a rain garden and other infrastructure improvements. At Moss Playground, Torresdale and Cheltenham, construction is expected to start next fall or winter, Stern said.

The water department has many other stormwater mitigation programs available to city residents, including rain barrel installation and patio or driveway replacement. Visit phila.gov/water/sustainability for information.

In other Wissinoming Civic Association business:

• Zoning Chairman John Nolen reported that a developer has contacted the association about building on the site of the former Wissinoming Boys Club at 4133 Van Kirk St. The civic group previously rejected a developer’s plan to build homes on the property. No applications or plans have been filed with the city, Nolen said.

• WCA member Sean Null reported that he has begun to investigate how the association might start a community garden. One possible site may be a vacant lot at 5726 Tulip St. With proper planning and research, volunteers could start the garden next spring, Null said. In addition, Null is hoping to organize a nature walk in Wissinoming Park in June. A date has not been set.

• One day after the civic meeting, President John Barnes and other WCA officers met with city officials at McCafferty-Sweeney Funeral Home to further plans for a new public mural or series of murals in the neighborhood. The Mural Arts Program is teaming with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and the Human Relations Commission on the project, which would require the community to raise tens of thousands of dollars in donations. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.