Philadelphia Water Department challenges area businesses to protect the watershed

POTTSTOWN — Last year, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) donated $100,000 to the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, which was founded in 2006 by Exelon Nuclear. Now, water department officials want others to support the program so more money can be made available to projects that eliminate pollutants in the river.

Working in partnership with the Schuylkill River Heritage Area and the Schuylkill Action Network (a group of agencies collaborating to protect the watershed), the water department is seeking to raise an additional $100,000 from area businesses, corporations and water suppliers—many of whom rely on the river for drinking water or production.

“Through this unconventional partnership and leveraged grant opportunity, the Philadelphia Water Department continues to improve the Schuylkill River’s condition so that Philadelphia’s drinking water is at its best,” said Kelly Anderson, manager for the PWD’s Source Water Protection Program. “We are now challenging other businesses to contribute to this worthy program so that more projects can be funded, and even greater advances can be made to enhancing the river’s water quality.”

The fund has been in existence since 2006, when it was founded by Exelon Nuclear as part of the water supply program at Limerick Generating Station. The Schuylkill River Heritage Area oversees the program, distributing money annually to non-profit organizations and government agencies for projects that mitigate acid mine drainage, stormwater runoff and agricultural pollution.

“Protecting and preserving the Schuylkill River is very important to us,” said Bill Maguire, Limerick site vice president. “This program is a great partnership between Exelon and other environmental leaders in the community, and we applaud the Philadelphia Water Department for challenging others to join us in conserving one of our region’s most valuable resources.”

Since being established in 2006, the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund has generated over one million dollars and provided grants to 16 different projects, preventing a variety of pollutants from entering the water.

Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl said businesses have good reason to take up the water department’s challenge.

“By contributing to this fund, businesses will help conserve, protect and improve a natural resource that is essential to the well-being of the population and the vitality of the regional economy,” he said.

The Schuylkill River is a source of drinking water for over 1.75 million people. What’s more, as its water quality improves, the river is becoming a popular recreational amenity, and its waterfronts are bolstering revitalization efforts of river communities throughout the region.

The annual Schuylkill River Restoration fund began as part of a demonstration project for what is known as the water supply program at Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generating Station, under the purview of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Over the past several years, the Schuylkill Action Network has been working to grow the program by seeking additional funders.

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) began contributing to the Restoration Fund in 2010, targeting money specifically for projects that address pollution mitigation upstream of, within the direct drainage of, or in areas that significantly influence Philadelphia drinking water intakes. However, all the projects ultimately benefit the entire watershed because they reduce the amount of run-off and pollution that enters the river.

Grant recipients are selected annually by a committee made up of representatives from Exelon, DRBC, PWD, Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the Schuylkill River Heritage Area.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal