Monday, May 11, 2009

Potential Applications of Stormwater BMPs to Revitalization for the Wyoming Valley and Abandon Mineland

Because of the aggressive development and mining activities in parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the cities within the Wyoming Valley are experiencing a number of environmentally related redevelopment and economic issues. The area has a significant quantity of land that is currently undergoing mineland reclamation to either industrial parks, commercial development, residential housing, recreational areas, and some "green areas". Much of the "reclamation" results in regrading of the area, but only a limited amount of land has been converted to stable "green areas".

In addition to these issues, there are a number of major issues related to the use of combined sewer outfalls (i.e., combined sewer lines and stormwater management) systems, lack of adequate stormwater management, acid mine drainage, uncontrolled urban runoff, heat island effects because of all the pavement, and mine drainage from culm piles and abandoned mine workings.

A possible alternative strategy to Redevelopment of Wilkes-Barre and other Urban Areas.

Main Goal - Return Wilkes-Barre and the Urban Areas to the places were people can live - not just going out to lunch during work hours, but getting citizens to live in the urban centers and making urban centers community destinations.

1. Redevelopment - this effort should not only include the rebuilding or updating the downtown or requiring the use of Green Building Design Elements, maintaining and improving historic structures and features, and building new residential or commercial ventures, but integrating new approaches to stormwater management and landscape ecology.
Besides converting the downtown into a "safe-accessible-functioning community", the downtown most be converted into a "Village" that supports multiple commercial, community, and recreational opportunities. This approach would require the integration and development of additional "green areas", "gardens", and alternative landscapes features that are not present in the existing downtown community and living areas- An urban destination !

2. Creating a more woodland - greener urban area - The redevelopment efforts should include transforming reclaimed mined land, abandoned lots and buildings, "brownfields", and other urban areas to more native vegetation, interconnected greenways, and curbside bioretention systems that could incorporate stormwater BMPs. This would help to change the feel of the downtown and aid in controlling and treating stormwater. The end result would be a more cost effect way of reducing adverse impacts associated with CSOs (combined sewer overflows), stormwater management, and creating an inviting living and working environment. If possible some of the areas could be used as a demonstration sites for innovative stormwater management systems in Northeastern Pennsylvania. This would not only bring more local attention, but could bring more national attention to the Wyoming Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

3. In areas outside the city, it may be possible to use stormwater bioretention systems as a means of treating and buffering mine drainage and providing treatment for urban stormwater runoff control from residential lots and low density housing developments. Currently, stormwater recharge facilities are not permitted on areas identified as culm or mine drainage areas, but it may be advisable to use this method to introduce alkalinity to the system through the use of a bioretention/infiltration system.

In most cases, the streams leaving sites developed in culm areas are losing streams that will ultimately recharge the groundwater system. Therefore, the combination of bioretention/recharge systems that would introduce additional buffering capacity could result in an overall decrease in the quantity of acid mine drainage. This application would probably work best on sites were the overburden is primarily composed of culm.

4. For areas with significant CSO (combined sewer outfalls), it may be advisable to consider the installation of groundwater recharge trenches or shallow wells to attempt to directly recharge either the stormwater prior to entering the sewer system.
Currently, the groundwater aquifer is not used as a public water supply or industrial water source. The discharge from the groundwater aquifer does aid in sustaining the flows for a number of watersheds, but these flows are associated with either mine drainage or acid mine drainage. Under the current practice, the CSO overflow discharges directly to the surfacewater system and efforts to treat mine drainage are typically associated with the point of discharge. A potential alternative would be to consider the installation of injection wells or trenchs to attempt to artificially recharge the stormwater or partially treated CSO discharge directing into the bedrock aquifer. Upon recharge, the water would travel through the groundwater aquifer and then discharge to the Susquehanna River or one of the local tributaries.

It is likely that the current point and non-point discharges from the groundwater aquifer would be the points were the stormwater would exit the groundwater system. At these areas, real-time water quality monitoring devices could be deployed to monitor general water quality and facilitate the treatment of the "mine or acid-mine discharges".
5. For some of the commercial, residential, and urban areas, it may be advisable to integrate bioretention areas as part of the landscape features, stormwater management systems, and as part of reclamation. For these areas, it may be advisable to consider the use of "amended soil" or "manufactured soils" to improve soil quality.

6. Introduction of Green Building Design -Use of more energy efficient lighting, recyclable building materials, alternative heating and cooling systems (geothermal), water reuse, and building material selection. In addition to the stimulus money and tax credits, it may be possible to help offset the cost of this program or approach using Carbon Credits, Energy Credits, or Pollution Credits.

7. Apartment Buildings - Offices - University Campus - etc - It may be advisable to consider the development and use of green roofing systems. These systems will not only improve energy efficient, decrease peak stormwater flows and runoff volumes, but also create unique landscape settings for the urban areas in the city. It may be advisable to require new or renovated sites to increase the infiltration capacity of the site by 10 to 20% either on-site or by creating a local "green bank".

8. Introduction of Porous Concrete and Use a Modified Porous Pavement System and subsurface infiltration systems. In the implementation of these infiltration systems - the material selection should include materials that will increase the alkalinity of the water.

9. Creating bioretention islands within parking lots to decrease the heat island effects and create landscape features, but also to management stormwater runoff.

10. Landscape Irrigation Systems and Possible Reuse Systems - stormwater could be used for landscape irrigation, flushing toilets (commercial applications), and other non-drinking water reuse .

These initiatives would put the local community to work rebuilding the community where they live.
Source of Information
Mr. Brian Oram (me)
previously published article at

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