Richmond

A Streetcar Named…Green Infrastructure?

By Matt Colip

A 40-degree day wasn’t ideal for an open-air trolley ride.  But the sights we witnessed in Virginia’s capital were worth the chill.

I joined EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin as he participated in a recent trolley tour of projects in Richmond that are helping to improve water quality in the James River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.  The tour was provided by officials from the City of Richmond, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the non-profit Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

The first stop was the city’s wastewater treatment plant to view massive upgrades designed to sharply reduce pollution discharges to the James.  EPA funded more than half of the project through its Clean Water State Revolving Fund.  From here, the trolley rolled off toward downtown Richmond.

Regional Administrator Garvin (center) tours green infrastructure sites in Richmond.

Regional Administrator Garvin (center) tours green infrastructure sites in Richmond.

There, we came to a stop for a different form of transportation: the Bus Loop Green Street project.  This project retrofitted the bus loop for the Capitol to utilize pervious pavement and rain garden planters with native species to filter and absorb the captured rain water.  This was a great example of the green infrastructure opportunities offered by urban environments – a strategy EPA supports across the region to improve water quality.

After a few minutes at this site, we traveled to our third stop, Capitol Square – this time by foot. Walking past the Capitol to this next stop reminded us of how beautiful Virginia’s Capitol building truly is; its historic architecture makes you think that Thomas Jefferson could be walking out the front door.  It may have been a cold day, but the sky was clear and the sun was beaming down and reflecting off the Capitol building’s sheet white walls – you almost needed sunglasses just to look at it!

It wasn’t long before a representative from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay explained that the brick walkway surrounding the Capitol that we were standing on was pervious, too.  An underground cistern harvests rainwater from the walkway, which is then used to water plants and provide water for the Bell Tower fountain on Capitol Square.  This project not only reduces the amount of stormwater runoff from what was once an impervious surface surrounding the Capitol building, but serves as a high-profile education tool to inform the public about the benefits of controlling stormwater with surfaces that let the rain soak in.

The final stop was a single-lane carriage street on 12th Street near the Capitol that had also been retrofitted with porous material, another example of history interfacing with cutting-edge environmental solutions in Richmond.

Both Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin and I were very impressed with these projects, which provide a tangible representation of what Richmond and other urbanized areas can do to improve the long-term health of their local waters and the larger water systems they are a part of.

About the Author: Matt Colip works in the region’s Office of State and Congressional Relations as the as the State and Congressional Liaison for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Originally from Texas, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with an interdisciplinary BA in Public Health and has a MS from Saint Joseph’s University that focused on environmental protection policy and management. In addition to SCUBA diving, Matt is an avid bicyclist and enjoys riding with friends and colleagues.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reviving Urban Waters

By Tom Damm

On the grounds of Friends Hospital in northeast Philadelphia a few weeks ago, we got a first-hand look at how funds from EPA’s Urban Waters Program will make a big difference.  This was the first year for the Urban Waters small grant program, and there was keen interest in the $2.7 million that was made available across the country.

Members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society took us down a winding path to an area where work will occur to clear overgrown brush, prevent existing flooding and improve the flow of a tributary to Tacony Creek.  It’s one of 10 projects that will be done in coordination with a local environmental group to help restore a watershed on the city’s outskirts.

Drew Becher (President, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society), Julie Slavet (Executive Director, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.), Barbara McCabe (Director of Stewardship, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and William C. Early (Deputy Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III) with the Urban Waters small grant “big check” at Friends Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia.

Drew Becher (President, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society), Julie Slavet (Executive Director, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.), Barbara McCabe (Director of Stewardship, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and William C. Early (Deputy Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region III) with the Urban Waters small grant “big check” at Friends Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia.

Five days later in Morgantown, West Virginia, there was a similar scene as members of Friends of Deckers Creek described to our Regional Administrator, Shawn M. Garvin, how urban waters funds will be used to prepare for the cleanup of polluted water from an abandoned mine.

And last Friday, we toured the Bellemeade neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, where urban waters funds will help transform a neglected creek into the spark for a community revival.

Other projects in Baltimore and Philadelphia in our region, as well as many others across the country, are underway to help communities unlock the potential of their waterways and the land around them.  That’s what the Urban Waters program is all about.

Many urban waterways have been left a legacy of pollution by sewage, runoff from city streets and contamination from now abandoned industrial facilities.  Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, economic, recreational, employment and social opportunities in nearby communities.

To read about other urban waters projects and perhaps be inspired to take your own actions, visit http://www.epa.gov/urbanwaters/index.html.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.