Flood Mitigation and Stormwater Management in Ambler Area Watersheds
In August 2012, the Center for Sustainable Communities received a competitive research grant ($60,000) from US EPA. Out of 600 applications, EPA’s Urban Waters Small Grant program has selected 46 organizations nationwide, including two in Pennsylvania. The Center will develop a stormwater management plan for three urban watersheds that drain the Borough of Ambler and Whitpain and Upper Dublin Townships in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Mahbubur Meenar, who is serving as the Principal Investigator, said, “The plan will identify and prioritize stormwater improvements to mitigate water quality problems, derived primarily from non-point source pollutions, and flooding problems that the lower-income and minority residents have been facing for many years”. The 3.93 square mile study area is located at the center of the 64 square mile Wissahickon Creek Watershed and includes three tributaries – Rose Valley, Honey Run/Stuart Farm, and Tannery Run. These three watersheds drain Ambler Borough and Whitpain and Upper Dublin Townships.
In the Wissahickon Watershed, increasing impermeable surfaces has amplified the volume and frequency of runoff and led to a number of problems, including increased incidence of flooding, impaired water quality, and ecological degradation. “Considering both national and state criteria, the Wissahickon Creek main stem and tributary stream reaches do not meet water quality standards and are designated as “impaired” due to nutrients and siltation”, explained Meenar, the assistant director of GIS operations and research of the Center. “In particular, the West Ambler neighborhood includes vacant and flood-damaged properties. The neighborhood faces environmental justice issues that include air pollution, surface water pollution, and groundwater contamination.”
Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, the director of the Center and Co-PI of this project, said, "Based on prior research in this region, we strongly endorse the use of stormwater Best Management Practices or BMPs as the preferred means to achieve improved water quality through groundwater recharge and retention, stream bank protection, and volume control. As this watershed is essentially built-out, the team will concentrate much of its research on identifying opportunities for retrofitting existing stormwater facilities and finding locations for new BMPs in areas that are not currently served by them.”
Community engagement is a key aspect of this project. “Our proposed strategies are relevant to community priorities”, said Meenar. “We have met with officials of the three municipalities, and representatives of environmental groups and community organizations. There are quite a few organizations in the Ambler area that are concerned with environmental issues. Some of these organizations have intermingled participants but the groups have separate goals and agendas. We hope this proposed study will foster collaboration among these groups.”
Specific tasks of this project will include field data collection and verification, modeling, stormwater management facilities inventory, and assessment of stormwater improvements, their impact on water quality, and their implementation strategies. “We’ve formed partnerships with local governments, environmental groups, and community organizations. The project web site(http://amblerwatersheds.wordpress.com) and stakeholder meetings will serve as tools for public outreach and engagement process and are expected to increase community involvement, trust, capacity, and environmental stewardship”, said Meenar.
An advisory committee will be formed on September 21 at Temple University Ambler campus. The committee includes municipal officials, environmental and community groups, local businesses, and citizens. “We’ve proposed two public meetings with the stakeholders”, said Meenar. “The first meeting will target information exchange and strategy development and offer an understanding of community problems and priorities. We’ll use Public Participatory GIS (PPGIS) techniques to identify problem areas and the intensity of damage. The advisory committee is expected to help organize and promote this big public event, to be arranged sometime in October”.
Regular updates on this project will be available from the project web site http://amblerwatersheds.wordpress.com.