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South Philly school, surrounding neighborhood get $400,000 grant to improve stormwater management

When it comes to sustainability, Philadelphia boasts of a first-rate stormwater management plan called "Green City, Clean Waters,” which is implemented by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD).  Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), students and staff at South Philly’s Nebinger School and residents of the adjacent community will be able to exemplify sustainable rainwater management. This grant will be coupled with a matching $200,000 grant from PWD and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

The EPA hopes to make Nebinger, at 6th and Carpenter Sts., a national and international exemplar for rainwater control.  The combined $400,000 grant will go in part towards educating students about how to sustainably make use of rainwater. Lessons will be facilitated through the installation of a large rain garden, permeable play surfaces, and stormwater planters.

David Sternberg, press officer for EPA’s Region 3, which includes Philadelphia, says the PWD nominated Nebinger because of the school’s previous work with the city, the Trust for Public Land, and the Community Design Collaborative on stormwater management.

"Therefore, the partnership would not be starting from scratch, but could have something implemented for demonstration in the near future,” says Sternberg. 

Sternberg adds that Nebinger fulfills a number of other EPA prerequisites. This includes an "ongoing classroom educational laboratory” on environmental curriculum, a strong local business improvement district (the East Passyunk Business Improvement District), a stellar academic history, and a diverse collection of students, according to Sternberg. 

While the initial grant only covers the school and a few surrounding blocks, indications are it could eventually stretch much further than that. Sternberg hints that students at Nebinger might partner with pupils in Rio de Janeiro on sustainable stormwater management as part of the EPA-facilitated Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability. This initiative brings together members of the U.S. and Brazilian government, "private, academic, and civil society sectors” that promote environmentally-friendly cities, says Sternberg.

The immediate neighborhood is poised to benefit as well. The grant will cover Passyunk Ave. between 6th and 10th Sts. The community will benefit from tree trenches and other methods that enable trees to better handle rainwater. According to Sternberg, PWD and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, which have been handling business outreach, have found a "significant amount of interest” from local members of the East Passyunk Business Improvement District.

No official word on when Nebinger and the neighboring streets will begin to see stormwater improvements, although a source tells us green street retrofits could begin as early as autumn. This same source says design and construction of the rain garden and other features at the school could begin in late spring of next year, although that’s not confirmed.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: David Sternberg, EPA
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