In the figurative sense, Philadelphia is getting greener than ever. Collaborations by the Philadelphia Water Department and Streets Department are advancing Philadelphia toward becoming, as Mayor Nutter likes to say, “the greenest city in America.”
The water department teamed with NovaThermal Energy to deploy the first commercial scale geothermal system in the United States for heating a building with domestic wastewater. This pilot project is taking place at the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant.
The 1-million BTU/hr unit, accessing heat from the adjacent sewage channel, projects a 50% reduction in heating costs for the plant. Some $215,000 is expected to be gained over 15 years.
“We will be able to save on costs and energy resources at a city facility,” explained Mayor Nutter, “while commercializing a technology that can be used in large commercial and industrial buildings throughout the country.”
The project was made possible with funding largely from the city’s Greenworks Pilot Energy Technology Grant program and Energy and Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of SE Pennsylvania is supporting the measurement and verification of the project’s efforts.
Philadelphians can get involved in not only geothermal heating but the production of fertilizer by using waste disposals in their kitchen sinks. A new pilot program (Clean Kitchen, Green Community) is testing the effectiveness of diverting food garbage from landfills through household garbage disposals.
In this case, the Streets Department has partnered with INSinkErator officials and community groups to institute the pilot along garbage collection routes in West Oak Lane and Point Breeze. One hundred homeowners will be given free waste disposers and installation by local, licensed plumbers. The Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation and Diversified Community Services will lead the effort in their respective areas.
The Streets Department will assess the volume and composition of waste generated before, during and after the pilot. “Food waste disposers move food scraps out of trash trucks and landfills to the water department, where it’s converted,” said Terry Ferry, president of InSinkErator, “into clean water, renewable energy, and fertilizer products.”
That is right. Methane gas, generated as food waste breaks down, can be converted into heat and energy to power water plants, similar to the one in southeast Philadelphia. Solids that remain are processed into fertilizer pellets for use on regional farms. Therefore, much less soggy, heavy waste is trucked and dumped into landfills where methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, builds up.
“This approach is sustainable,” declared Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug. Plus, it cuts down on unwanted odors in the kitchen. To learn more about Clean Kitchen, Green Community, visit www.philadelphiastreets.com, www.ogontzave.org, or http://dcsphila.org. The respective telephone numbers are 215.686.5560 citywide, 215.549.9462 in West Oak Lane, and 215.336.5505 in Point Breeze.
Another local advance is greening as many as 10 school yards and recreation centers starting this month. This marks the 2nd phase of the city’s Green 2015 Action Plan. One in 8 Philadelphians do not have a public park or playground within walking distance of their homes. This phase pulls the school district, water department, department of parks and recreation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Mural Arts Program into the action. The collaboration will expand public access to green spaces at a cost of about $9 million (about 2/3 from state, city, and school district sources).
“This program represents a triple bottom line for Philadelphia,” stated Dr. Janet Haas, board chair of the William Penn Foundation. “It repurposes existing city property, putting assets we already own to better use. And it brings communities together in attractive public spaces around their schools and recreation centers. In a time of economic scarcity, that level of impact is no small feat.”
The program initially focuses on redesigning and redeveloping the William Dick Elementary Schoolyard, Hank Gathers Recreation Center, and Collazo Park for expanded public use. Cost efficiencies are being gained from redeveloping locations in close proximity, and community engagement and education of students to adults are considered critical. Pending the success of this pilot, the greening of more recreation centers and schoolyards will be announced later.
In addition to increasing the natural world for public enjoyment, expanding green spaces reduces pollution in the storm water system caused by excessive runoff from paved areas during hard rains and heavy snows. “Win-win partnerships like these get real traction and deliver on-the-ground results,” said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land. The goal is to transform 500 acres of land in Philadelphia neighborhoods into green playspaces by 2015.
For more details, visit Greenworks Philadelphia by clicking here or call 215.686.1776.
All rights to this article are reserved by Gloria Blakely. Copyright 2012.