On Nov. 1, a Research and Sustainability Seminar titled “Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management: Considerations for Equitable Planning” was held in Sykes 209 from 12-12:50 p.m. The seminar was hosted by Professor Megan Heckert from the Office of Geography and Planning.

Heckert has served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps and currently teaches Introduction to Geographical Information Systems and Computer Cartography at West Chester University. Sixteen people attended the program.

The seminar focused on planning for better stormwater management in Philadelphia and how the city can reduce the amount of sewage and stormwater overflow. The initiative “Philadelphia: Green City, Green Waters” seeks to move towards a “purely green infrastructure approach” while ultimately seeking to reduce stormwater overflow.

The cost would be approximately $1.6 billion to complete, and it hopes to cover 9,500 acres with green infrastructure within the city.

Examples of green infrastructure would include rain gardens, “pervious pavement” and urban farming. Ideally, this program would be cheaper than the program introduced in Washington D.C., where a stormwater tunnel would maintain the sewage.

This program would also seek to place all Philadelphia residents within a half mile from residential parks, and reduce the amount of vacant lots in the city. This program wants to focus primarily on areas of the city with “higher need.”

Indicators of areas in high need include percentage of racial and ethnic minorities, proximity to traffic, amount of vacant land and a low number of socioeconomic status residents.

Heckert is currently working on an “optimization model” for this program which seeks to set benefit goals such as a specific number of rain gardens in certain areas and the equity goals for all residents in Philadelphia.

Some of the challenges to the program would include private property owners’ cooperation and a means to implement green infrastructure in apartment complexes where residents do not have control over the property.

Challenges further include distribution of this infrastructure to the areas of Philadelphia with the highest need, as well as being able to tackle the issue of dense row homes with little to no yard space. Gentrification concerns also pose a problem, along with the aesthetic appeal of rain gardens and other green infrastructure.

When asked how students at West Chester can contribute to greener planning and infrastructure, Heckert said students should get involved with local organizations in West Chester. Students can also join the Sustainability Advisory Council wherein they can help maintain the gardens on campus and take part in grounds efforts.

Ray Chien, a senior communication studies major at West Chester University, described the Sustainability Advisory Council as “collaborative work” where students are motivated by a “connection to their own community.” Such work includes recycling and noticing the amounts of litter on campus.

The Sustainability Advisory Council seeks to provide “leadership, support and opportunities to advance sustainability at WCU and in the surrounding community.” They meet on Fridays at 2:30 p.m. in the Business and Public Management Building, room 203. For questions or more information on her project, Heckert can be reached at mheckert@wcupa.edu.

Samantha Walsh is a second-year student majoring in special education and English with a minor in autism studies. She can be reached at SW850037@wcupa.edu.

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