Measuring PWD Stormwater Litter in Tacony Creek

Tacony Creek has too much litter, unfortunately no one is systematically measuring it. The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), responsible for much of the stormwater delivered litter in Tacony Creek, does a good job measuring Tacony Creek water quality, routinely testing bacterial levels, dissolved oxygen, pH, nutrients as well as biological diversity.  PWD does not measure the floatable discharges from their numerous outfalls or the stormwater delivered litter in along the Tacony Creek banks.

I’m starting a humble effort to at least get a qualitative sense for the litter build-up in the Creek. I plan to monitor several natural trash traps in the rate of Creek trash build-up at specific points along the Creek. I have started with a branch on Friends Hospital downstream of 6 PWD outfalls.

Photo by Kelly O'Day

My plan is simple and doable by 1 person, collect the debris from this branch after rain events and measure the rate of litter build-up.

Here’s what the branch looked like when I removed the litter on 10/17/13. Notice the trash bag.

Photo by Kelly O'Day

Here’s Friends Hospital debris trash bag on a tarp in my driveway.

Photo by Kelly O'Day

I separated trash into 2 categories: natural and man-made. I further sorted the man-made material into plastic bags, food wrappers, cloth, and special items like a belt, bungee cord and plastic flowers.

Photo by Kelly O'Day

Measurement is no easy matter. Do we count or weight? Do we weight dry or wet? Anacostia Watershed Society is an excellent source of information on stormwater litter, they have done detailed investigations.

Stay tuned as we keep learning and hopefully encourage PWD to more aggessively tackle Philadelphia’s stormwater floatables pollution of Tacony Creek.

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