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Environment & Energy

City Debuts New “Green” Stormwater Management System in Greenfield

With the goal of decreasing street and basement flooding in an often-affected area, the City of Pittsburgh and Penn State partnered to build a Bioswale on the corner of Saline and Alexis Streets along Four Mile Run in Greenfield. A bioswale is green technology designed to hold and filter stormwater in flood-prone areas.

"We transformed a site that, and don't tell anybody this, wasn't even compliant with city code," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, "to see what it looks like today is really remarkable."

Today there are mulch, plants, and trees lining the sidewalk, and the sidewalk itself is made from pervious concrete.

"What is does is, the water that flows from over the hillside comes in and gets absorbed into the concrete, so it doesn't even get into our piping system. That's just one of the unique things, then you have mulch, dirt, plants, trees, and those are other things that are going to absorb the water so it doesn't get to our pipes," said City Councilman Corey O'Connor.

O'Connor was responsible for about $6,000 in neighborhood needs funding for the project, the concrete was donated by Bryan Materials Group and the city's Department of Public Works donated the construction labor. He said the area was chosen because it was getting a lot of water due to the fact that it's in the lower end of the city and a lot of pipes run there.

"So when the water comes, it hits a wall and throws it back up and it's supposed to catch another pipe and go down, but when water's coming from all areas, the water has nowhere to go but into peoples' basements. So this is hopefully going to hold the water back so that we can channel the water down to the river so it doesn't come up through somebody's basement," said O'Connor.

Officials said this project is a big deal, even in a city known for its number of green buildings and the recognition of some of those, such as the convention center.

"We are significantly behind in the area of green infrastructure, particularly with respect to storm water mitigation strategies. As we face a looming crisis in our combined sewer and stormwater systems, green infrastructure has been given little or no consideration in this area, even though it is a recommended best practice as proven through many levels of research and demonstration," said Dr. Dino De Ciantes, director of Penn State Center, which helped coordinate this project.

With this demonstration in place, De Ciantes said the hope is to elevate city's position and have Pittsburgh take its place as a model city in green efforts. The bioswale can be replicated throughout city and beyond, and city officials hope to do just that in other flood-prone areas.

In addition to the city and Penn State, community volunteers and members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 95, planted 12 sweet bay magnolia and serviceberry trees, which were provided by TreeVitalize Pittsburgh.