Stormwater Trenches: Turning a Burden into a Blessing Phila. Water Dept. creates street-side gardens to absorb stormwater overflow

Foreman John Husser ambles past the end of a Phila. Water Department stormwater infiltration trench on Bellford Avenue in Eastwick. When Husser and his crew complete the filling of this trench it will join with similar installations on nearby Elmwood to reduce flooding and sewer overflow risks.
Foreman John Husser ambles past the end of a Phila. Water Department stormwater infiltration trench on Bellford Avenue in Eastwick. When Husser and his crew complete the filling of this trench it will join with similar installations on nearby Elmwood to reduce flooding and sewer overflow risks.

Off Buist Avenue, just off Island, the Philadelphia Water Department is planting a garden.   A sort of a garden that is 12 feet wide and 100 feet long, down the south side of Bellford. 

But it just won’t beautify the homes on both sides of this quiet, handsome street.  When heavy rains come, the garden will draw off hundreds of gallons of water from adjacent streets, sidewalks, and yards – helping to prevent the inconvenience and health consequences of flooding – for decades a major problem in Eastwick.

“We’ll put down a filter liner first, then a layer of sand,” described John Husser foreman on this part of the Elmwood Medians Package, a T-shaped series of stormwater infrastructure tools that will connect Bellford with another 4-block segment of stormwater collection units on Elwood. Gazing down into the 5-foot deep trench, he added, “After that, we’ll refill with additional layers of clean stone and gravel.”

A stormwater infiltration trench schematic showing how flow from heavy rainstorms can be retained and allowed to seep gradually into the ground.

“This kind of storage and infiltration structure holds the water after heavy rain and allows it to slowly seep back into the ground,” indicated Husser who grew up in Southwest over on 68th street.   This process takes the pressure off our city’s ancient dual stormwater/sewer system, reducing the risk that heavy rainwater runoff could mix with sewage and threaten our drinking water. Excess water that does not infiltrate the soil can be slowly released into the sewer system at a controlled rate.

The work being done in Eastwick is similar to other projects in the Elmwood neighborhood:  a 15-block area adjacent to Elmwood Park and another 9-block section of Elmwood from 66th to 69th Street.

The stormwater projects are part of “Green City, Clean Waters,” the city’s 25-year plan to deal with stormwater at an investment of some $2.4 billion.  It combines installing green stormwater infrastructures along streets and in such public places like the one at a corner of the Kingsessing Recreation Center property and another in Clark Park.  The plan also encourages the residents and businesses to take steps to add their own private green stormwater infrastructure.

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