WPC, Millvale Unveil Advancement in Storm Water Management on Sisters of St. Francis Campus

Wed, Oct 9th 2013, 09:20. Filed under News Releases.

Pittsburgh – Oct. 9 – Two urban storm water management and filtration systems are now operating on the Franciscan Sisters of Millvale’s campus. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will unveil these natural catchments, called bioswales, today.

In an example of engineered green infrastructure, the Conservancy recently completed two bioswales near the Sisters of St. Francis’ Mount Alvernia motherhouse. Designed by Arthur Gazdik of Groundwork Civil LLC and constructed by Best Feeds Outdoor Design of Pittsburgh, these structures will capture storm water and improve water quality in the borough.

The project partners, including the Borough of Millvale, the Sisters of St. Francis and the Conservancy, will celebrate the unveiling of the bioswales from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, on 146 Hawthorne Road in Millvale with a curb cutting – a twist on the traditional ribbon cutting.

“This is the first of two bioswales that we have created on the Mount Alvernia campus and is part of a series of improvements in Millvale that address flooding and excessive runoff,” said Jeffrey Bergman, director of TreeVitalize. “Excessive storm runoff is caused by issues such as an increase of impervious surfaces like concrete in the area. Girty’s Run also has a history of causing flood damage in Millvale.”

Financial support for the bioswales came from a grant from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as PENNVEST, for construction of the bioswales in order to control storm water runoff and its pollution of Girty’s Run.

Bioswales are built landscape elements designed to control and filter surface and storm water runoff . Typically, these structures are wide shallow ditches with slopes that are steep enough to prevent ponding, yet gentle enough to encourage filtering through plants and ground cover.

One of the new bioswales stretches along Hawthorne Road on the way up the hill to the Franciscan Sister’s campus. This meandering 400-feet-long strip of boulders, rocks and native vegetation mimics a natural stream with riffles, runs and pools. The 15-foot wide structure contains drains and weirs to control storm water.

Another bioswale sits near a Mount Alvernia parking lot. This structure includes native plants and trees such as horse chestnut, autumn flowering cherry and bald cypress.

The bioswales are part of a multi-year project in Millvale in which WPC – which is the managing partner of TreeVitalize Pittsburgh – planted 850 trees throughout the borough. While TreeVitalize and the Conservancy will care for the bioswales and the trees for about two years, the organizers are training volunteer tree tenders to be eventual caretakers.

TreeVitalize is a partnership among WPC and Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Tree Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), which is also one of the initiative’s top funders.

The trees benefit the community in a number of ways, including producing oxygen, purifying the air, sheltering wildlife, decreasing energy usage and increasing property values. All told, Pittsburgh’s street trees provide $2.4 million annually in economic and environmental benefits.


About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region’s quality of life by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped to establish ten state parks, conserved more than 235,000 acres of natural lands and protected or restored more than 1,500 miles of rivers and streams. The Conservancy owns and operates Fallingwater, which symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 135 community gardens and greenspaces that are planted with the help of 13,000 volunteers. The work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 11,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org.

Media contact:
Allison Schlesinger
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
412-586-2358 (office)
412-607-1945 (cell)


The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3)
of the Internal Revenue Code, and 100% of your donation is tax-deductable as allowed by law.