Tag Archives: Philadelphia storm water

Phila Plastic Litter is Pollution


Phila CSO’s Hurt Tacony Frankford More Than Other Receiving Waters

The Tookany-Tacony-Frankford Creek has proportionately more CSO discharges  than any other City receiving water.  This recent Philadelphia CSOCast map snapshot hows that 6 CSOs overflowed to the small TTF Creek in the prevous 24 hours compared to 6 each for the much larger Delaware and  Schuylkill Rivers and 4 to the small Cobbs-Darby Creek.



Philadelphia is dumping excessive stormwater trash to the small, challenged TTF and Cobbs-Darby creeks.

Philadelphia Stormwater Runoff Dumps Street Litter in our Creeks

Here’s a close up view of how Philadelphia street litter is polluting our creeks and rivers. (link)


You can see my other TTF photosynths here.

Philadelphia’s 1995 Litter – Creek Trash Mistaken Impression and Today’s Street Litter

Philadelphia, as part of Appendix C of the PaDEP-Philadelphia 6/1/11 Consent Order and Agreement (COA), is required to continue implementing EPA’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Nine Minimum Controls (NMC) (link), including NMC #7 Pollution Prevention Programs to Reduce Contaminants in CSOs.


EPA’s 1995 CSO NMC Guidance document (Chapter 8) outlines 10 nonstructural options that EPA encouraged CSO cities to consider in addressing solids and floatables pollution prevention. These 10 NMC #7 techniques are:

  • Street Cleaning (more frequent in high litter areas)
  • Public Education Programs
  • Solid Waste Collection and Recycling (including trash receptacles, more frequent pick-ups in litter problem areas)
  • Product Ban/ Substitution (fast food packaging)
  • Control of Product Use
  • Illegal Dumping
  • Bulk Refuse Disposal
  • Hazardous Waste Collection
  • Water Conservation
  • Commercial/ Industrial Pollution Prevention

PHL_1995 _cover Continue reading

Solving Philadelphia’s Fugitive Trash Problem

Philadelphia has a serious street litter- dumping – creek trash problem that must be addressed. Philadelphia plastic bags and bottles are being carried by stormwater runoff to our local creeks, the Delaware River – Bay and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.

Fugitive Trash

We expect our trash to be properly handled, so we can label improperly handled trash as “fugitive trash” because it is trash that escaped our proper trash handling system. We have 3 main sources of fugitive trash:

  • Pedestrian and Vehicular Litter
  • Dumping of Commercial – Construction Debris
  • Dumping of Residential Trash

Much of this improperly handled trash gets carried to our creeks-rivers-Bay-Ocean by stormwater, seriously degrading our water resources.


Stormwater Runoff  Continue reading

Philadelphia’s Plastic Bottles Trashing Tacony – Frankford Creek

Plastic bottles are a serious water pollution problem in Philadelphia.  This photo survey shows the accumulation of plastic bottles in the Tacony – Frankford Creek and Tacony Creek Park.

(Click any image to launch slide show. Press X in Upper left to return to post)

You can download a pdf file of slides here.

Trash Photo Tour of Tacony – Frankford Creek

This map shows the extent of my 4/1/14 photo trash tour of the Tacony – Frankford Creek from E Wyoming Ave to Castor Ave.


View the slide show by clicking on any image.

To view the tour as a pdf,  click this link.

Mapping Philadelphia Litter

The Philadelphia Streets Department (PSD) conducts street litter surveys several times each year. They use a Street Litter Index to assign as score (1 – minimal, 4 significantly littered) to rate small multi-block survey areas.

Here are side-by-side maps of PSD’s 2007-08 and 2012 surveys:
(Click to enlarge)


You can compare these 2 maps in a before-after fashion by clicking this image and moving the Vertical slider: (Click to see interactive version)


Notice the differences between 2007-2008 and 2012? Any ideas why 2012 looks like there is less litter?

Here is a short Word file on the Street Department’s Litter Index ( psd_street_litter_index)

Tookany – Tacony Creek Trash Tour: 3/11/14

A group of 20 had an educational 2-hour tour of trash in and around Tacony Creek Park and Tacony Creek on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.  The planned tour route is shown below:


Because of time considerations, we stopped at point 8, just below Roosevelt Blvd.

The tour briefing pdf is available here.

Rainfall Intensity and Philadelphia Creek Trash Loads

Philadelphia is not the only metropolitan area with creek trash problems, the Anacostia River in Maryland and Washington DC also has a serious creek trash problem.

The Anacostia Watershed Society and the DC Department of the Environment have conducted a number of studies of creek trash, including a very interesting study of the Nash Run (link).

image004The project investigator, Masaya Maeda, measured the trash collected in a custom built trash trap each month between March, 2009 and September, 2010. He found an interesting relationship between the hours per month of intense rainfall (>= 0.3 inches/hr) and quantity of trash captured by the trap.

This chart summarizes the Nash Run trash data,  hours of 0.3 or more  inches per hour precipitation in each month versus the quantity of trash collected.


Take a close look at the Aug, 2010 data point, it looks like an outlier. It turns out that there was a 0.5 inches/hour, a pretty intense storm that partially explains the specific situation in that month.

As Maeda reports “.. it is observed that the rainfall intensity larger than 0.3 inches/hour may be a tipping point to carry trash pieces into a nearby stream.” (pg 5- 7)

This Anacostia Watershed Society observation may be an important factor in Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters Program (GC,CW).  The GC,CW program is focused on the frequent 1 inch or less storm events. This may not be helpful in controlling trash carried to Philadelphia creeks during the high intensity storms  that may be carrying most  street litter to Philadelphia creeks.

Here is a plot of the number of hours per year between 1950 to 2013  when the rainfall rate was greater than or equal to 0.3 inches/hour at Philadelphia International Airport.


The number of hours of rain  intensity >= 0.3 inches per hour ranges from a low of 7 to a high of 49 hours per year. If we look at the trend for intensities over 1 inch per hour, there seems to be a rising trend.


PWD has not conducted this type of detailed trash load by rainfall event study so we don’t have comparable rainfall intensity – trash load data for Philadelphia. We do know that we have significant trash loads in the Tookany Tacony Creek and we can see that the frequency of very  intense rain storms ( >= 1 inch per hour) is increasing. We clearly need  a street litter – creek trash study like those conducted by the Washington DC and the Anacostia Watershed Society to understand and address Philadelphia’s creek trash problem.