The Tacony-Frankford Creek has a major stormwater trash problem, as discussed here, here and here.
In this post, I want to show how to map watershed boundaries, Philadelphia City Council District Boundaries and litter Code Violation Notice data to show the geographic relationships between chronic litter areas, stormwater flow and creek trash.
Here is my map:
I made this map using ESRI’s ArcMap and Philadelphia’s open Code Violation Notice data. There were 6,258 litter code violations in the Philadelphia portion of the TTF Watershed. The Tacony Creek Park, highlighted in data green in the map, receives a large load of stormwater litter that gets caught along the banks and in vegetation along the banks.
What is it about the Tookany – Tacony Creek that causes the Creek litter in the Tacony to be so much worse than it is in the Wissahickon or Pennypack Creeks? Excessive street litter by Philadelphia residents, inadequate street cleaning by the Streets Department, inadequate floatables control by PWD are similar through out Philadelphia.
PWD’s Tookany – Tacony Creek Sewer System Configuration
The way PWD’s Tookany – Tacony Creek sewer system is configured causes large quantities of littered stormwater to be discharged at just a few outfalls along the Creek rather than many points along the tributaries to the Creek. This stormwater consolidation to just a few outfalls causes an excessive litter load to be dumped at a few points.This results in unsanitary, unsightly conditions that are unfair to the Tookany – Tacony Creek neighbors who happen to live near the PWD outfall or visit the Tacony Creek Park in the Friends Hospital area.
Let’s take a look at the location of PWD’s Tookany – Tacony Creek outfalls and the results of my creek trash photo surveys in the map below: (Click image to enlarge)
There is a relationship between the PWD outfall locations and the location of Tookany – Tacony Creek segments with excessive creek trash conditions. 3 segments have particularly bad creek trash conditions:
Rock Creek below PWD’s T-01 CSO
Mill Run below PWD’s T-088-01 MS4 outfall
Tacony Creek from Roosevelt Blvd to Friends Hospital – below PWD’s T-08 CSO
Let’s take a look at the drainage areas for the 3 outfalls s (T-01, T-088-01, T-08) with the worst downstream creek trash condition: (Click image to enlarge)
T-01’s drainage area is approximately 260 acres discharging into the very small Rock Creek at one point just south of Route 309 (Ogontz Ave).
T-088-01’s drainage area is approximately 450 acres discharging into the very small Mill Run creek at one point, just east Cheltenham Ave
T-08’s drainage area is approximately 1,950 acres discharging into Tacony Creek, just north of Roosevelt Blvd. While the Tacony Creek is larger than the Rock Creek and Mill Run segments, the discharge of littered PWD stormwater from such a large area is a major cause of the creek trash problem visible from Roosevelt Blvd to Friends Hospital.
The configuration of PWD’s sewer system contributes to the Tookany – Tacony Creek Trash problem because it carries littered stormwater flow from large areas to single points discharges along the Creek where the litter is caught along the rough banks and vegetation.
Generic City-wide PWD and Streets Department solutions will not completely solve the Tacony Creek problem. Tookany – Tacony Creek residents and Tacony Creek Park visitors need a Tookany – Tacony Creek Trash Plan need tailored to the specific issues in Tookany – Tacony Creek.
Philadelphia is becoming an oasis of rain gardens, green roofs, treescapes, and porous pavements. Source: StormwaterPa
PWD’s Green City, Clean Waters (GC,CW) is a wonderful program that will help clean our waterways and improve many of our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, GC,CW does not address street litter, a major stormwater pollution problem in the Tookany-Tacony Creek (here, here, here).
Philadelphia’s stormwater inlets are trapped so that some of the street dirt and litter is captured in the inlets which are cleaned by PWD staff. Some of the street litter, especially plastic bags and food wrapper, pass through the inlet traps and wind up in small creeks like the Tookany – Tacony Creek where they are caught by natural trash traps (link).
PWD and many others (TTF Watershed, StormwaterPa to name just 2) are doing a great job raising awareness to our stormwater problems and progress is being made. Street litter, the orphan of stormwater management, is not being discussed, mentioned or addressed by these hardworking people. Why?
Street litter is a tough, tough problem that has been with us for decades, make that centuries. We have our clean neighborhoods and our littered neighborhoods. If you live in the Wissahickon watershed, you have a clean creek. If you live in the Tacony, you have a littered creek. Upstream litter leads to creek litter.
Removing creek trash from the Tookany – Tacony Creek requires more than stormwater flow reductions, it requires litter and flow reductions. PWD could build on its impressive GC,CW program roll-out by adding CLEAN to the tag line. It’s time for PWD to shift to the City’s real mission:
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.
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.
Here’s Friends Hospital debris trash bag on a tarp in my driveway.
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.
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.
PWD outfalls discharge large quantities of street litter to the Tookany – Tacony – Frankford (TTF) Creek which hurts the Creek, Tacony Creek Park and the Friends Hospital. Too much of Philadelphia’s street litter flows into PWD’s stormwater inlets during rain events, passes through the inlet traps and is carried by storm sewer or combined sewer to an outfall where it is discharged to the TTF Creek.
I have found several chronic Creek locations along the banks of the TTF Creek that are seriously hurt by PWD litter laden stormwater outfall discharges:
The severity of PWD’s litter laden stormwater discharge has become very evident to me over the course of my TTF Creek Trash Photo Surveys. In an August, 2013 post I showed how some street litter plastic bags pass through PWD’s stormwater inlet traps and are discharged to the TTF Creek.
On September 23, 2013 I resurveyed Tacony Creek from Roosevelt Blvd to Friends Hospital and found that the Creek banks were as littered in September, 2013 as they were in August – October, 2012. This in spite of significant volunteer clean-up efforts organized by the TTF Watershed Partnership, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Scattergood Foundation, United by Blue, Philadelphia Water Department, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful and others. These cleanups have removed a large quantity of illegally dumped material, Park visitor litter and stormwater litter. Yet a great quantity of litter remains in and along the Creek.
This slideshow shows the Tacony Creek from Roosevelt Blvd to Friends Hospital on 9/23/13. It shows PWD’s 6 outfalls and the extensive Creek trash along the banks of this 0.8 mile stretch of Creek.
Click link or image to view 9/23/13 Tacony Creek Trash Tour
Let’s take a look at the 1,950 acre (3 square mile) stormwater drainage area for PWD’s T-08 outfall which discharges to the Tacony Creek just upstream of Roosevelt Blvd, noted in the blue shading in this map.
Click image to enlarge map
Too much of the street litter from this 3 square mile, densely populated drainage area is winding up along the banks of Tacony Creek from Roosevelt Blvd to Friends Hospital. Street litter from residents, businesses and visitors in Cedarbrook, East & West Oak Lane is hurting Tacony Creek, yet these distant Creek trash contributors are oblivious to the damage that their street litter is doing to the TTF Creek 1 – 2 miles from where they dump their plastic bag or food wrapper.
Volunteer cleanups along Tacony Creek in this area help, however, volunteers simply can not keep pace with the volume of street litter that makes its way to PWD’s T-08 and the 5 other outfalls in this short stretch of Creek.
The City’s Water, Streets and Parks & Recreation Departments are working hard to revitalize and restore the Creek and Tacony Creek Park with Creek restoration and new/enhanced trail projects. Interested groups like the TTF Watershed Partnership, Scattergood Foundation and Keep Philadelphia Beautiful are holding neighborhood events to encourage neighborhood ownership of the Park and Creek.
These efforts are helpful and needed, however, they do not address the underlying problem of street litter fouling Tacony Creek. Significant litter prevention and more effective floatables controls need to be more aggressively pursued to stem the flow of street litter flowing out of PWD outfalls and into the TTF Creek. More aggressive litter prevention and floatable controls need to be recognized as critical components of PWD’s Green City, Clean Water Program if we hope to have a litter free TTF Creek.
Litter reduction needs to go hand-in-hand with run-off reduction. The Green City, Clean Waters program is not providing the full message.
Too much of Philadelphia’s street litter passes through PWD’s storm sewers and is discharged to our creeks and rivers. This slideshow gives you a Creek View of storm water litter in Tacony Creek from Roosevelt Blvd to Friends Hospital as seen on 9/23/13.
Click any slide to start. Use Escape Key to return to Blog. Follow photo location on map. Use arrow to advance slides.
Cheltenhams’s Rock Creek is a tributary to Tookany Creek which in turn is a tributary to the Tacony Creek. I have written several posts about how Philadelphia and Cheltenham litter ends up in Rock Creek (here, here, here).
Trash from Philadelphia Water Department’s T-01 CSO outfall and the Cheltenham malls gets caught on rocks, bank vegetation and debris jams. These 2 photos show what happened to the Rock Creek debris jam just downstream of Ogontz Ave between March and June of this year.
I’m not sure how the debris jam was cleared, high water flow or a work crew? Either way, creek trash that was being caught in the jam will now flow farther downstream to the next snag point.
Here’s a slide show of the photos so that you can compare March and June photos.
To help comply with the Anacostia River Trash Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the Washington DC Department of Environment (DDOE) has installed two floating trash traps in the Anacostia Watershed (link).
Here is a short video showing the Bandalong trash trap in operation.
This in-stream device is effective in trapping floatable materials like plastic bottles, styrofoam cups and plastic bags floating on the water surface.
The DDOE contracts with non-profit organizations like Groundwork Anacostia and Earth Conservation Corp to have the trash baskets cleaned manually. Here’ a short video of Earth Conservation Corp participants leaning DDOE the trash trap.
DC’s in-stream trash trap approach could help right here in the TTF Watershed. It could reduce the trash load on Tacony Creek Park and provide a hands-on litter – stream trash learning opportunity for Philadelphia residents.
DC’s in-stream trap cleanup is much more efficient because than sending volunteers out to cleanup s a few times a year. Since the trash is trapped in a single basket rather than being spread over acres of streambank and floodplain, the cleanup effort is much more effective than the current TTF watershed cleanup efforts. For the same investment of volunteer effort, we could get a lot more trash with an in-stream trash trap.
The young ECC cleaners are both contributing to cleaning up the Anacostia River and learning about the consequences of litter/ illegal dumping. They will have a lot to tell their fiends about why they should not litter/ dump trash. This is both an educational training – outreach effort and a cleanup effort.
Here are links to 2 presentations on the DDOE’s in-stream trash trap efforts.