Greening blocks

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The Philadelphia Water Department will unveil its 20-year, $1.6 billion plan to reduce the city’s combined sewer overflow at Columbus Square Recreation Center, 12th and Wharton streets, 6 to 8 tonight. Last week, an exhibit at the rec center explained some of what the department is planning and served as a preview to the meeting.

"Green Cities, Clean Waters" will green Philadelphia, including its schools, public facilities and parking lots, in addition to encouraging residents to do the same for their homes. It is "the largest green stormwater infrastructure program ever envisioned in this country," according to a draft of the plan, and will capture 80 percent of the mix of sewage and stormwater that typically goes into rivers during rainfall.

Some pilot projects are under way, including one that is expected to begin this month on 13th Street between Reed and Wharton with the installation of sidewalk rain garden planters that will soak up stormwater runoff.

The program’s first green street block meeting is 6 p.m. Aug. 24 for residents of the 2100 block of South 16th Street. The project expected to begin in the spring, JoAnne Dahme, general manager of public affairs for the department, said.

In addition to more than $1 billion for similar green projects and $310 million for restoring habitats in stream channels, $270 million will be used to upgrade three water pollution control plants, including the Southeast location at Front Street and Pattison Avenue.

The department has been getting feedback on "Green Cities, Clean Waters" from residents, including a June 2 stop at Fels South Philadelphia Family Center, 2407 S. Broad St., prior to drafting the plan this month. Following meetings in Germantown and Northern Liberties this week, the plan heads to the state and the U.S. environmental protection agencies Sept. 1.

If the concept isn’t as successful as anticipated, changes can be made to the plan — although the Water Department is sure in its approach, Dahme said.

"Our timing is really good and we’re hoping that the EPA is just as confident," she said.