DEP honored 15 projects done by schools, businesses, and community organizations around the state with the 2022 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence.
“Every year the Environmental Excellence honorees show the creative and innovative ways we can improve our environment, and this year is no different,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “The projects highlighted this year show tremendous diversity in how they are making Pennsylvania a better place.”
“It is always a privilege to spotlight people going above and beyond to improve the environment and make our great outdoor spaces more accessible,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Each of the projects awarded this year will leave a positive lasting legacy for Pennsylvania.”
Applications were evaluated for their degree of environmental protection, innovation, partnership, economic impact, consideration of climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice, and outcomes achieved.
Collectively, the award-winning projects engaged hundreds of partners and resulted in:
- 2,470,000 gallons of treated stormwater
- 118 trees planted
- 32,552 shrubs planted
- 2,000 feet of trail created
- 200,000 pounds of acid mine drainage treated
- 8 miles of streams treated
- 242 acres of greenspace created
- 15 electric vehicles purchased
- 2,400 metric tons of CO2 reduced
- 1,700,000 kilowatt hours saved
- 500 tons of material recycled
The 2022 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence were awarded to:
Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, Inc for Green Stormwater Infrastructure at Wissinoming Park
Philadelphia Water Department's Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Unit initiated the development of GSI at Wissinoming Park, located in Lower Northeast Philadelphia, to improve water quality and reduce combined sewer overflows as part of their Green City, Clean Waters program.
JMT’s innovative sloping wetland design paired with two underground slow-release detention systems constructed within the park to double the planned creation of Greened Acres for the project, greening 42 acres – and treating more than 1.1 million gallons – in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
Vicinity Energy Philadelphia, Inc for Vicinity Energy Biogenic Fuel
Vicinity Energy converted four boilers at its Edison Station to use a new biofuel, LR100. LR100 is a cleaner fuel source for boilers than other fuel oil replacement options and will reduce air emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter by 50 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by nearly 99 percent. LR100 has the lowest carbon footprint of any commercially available biogenic fuel. Vicinity will also eliminate fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by using this renewable fuel source.
South Fayette Conservation Group for Gladden Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) Treatment Plant
Using $13 million in funding from the federal AMD Set-Aside Program and the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program, South Fayette Conservation Group installed the Gladden AMD Treatment Plant. In the last six months of plant operation a daily average of 1,050 pounds of iron pollution was removed from entering the stream per day. The total iron treated in the last six months was approximately 191,000 pounds.
The treatment plant eliminated the largest impairments to the Chartiers Creek watershed by continually pumping and treating over one million gallons of AMD daily and discharging the treated water to Millers Run. The removal of iron from the stream has improved the water quality of Millers Run (five miles) and Chartiers Creek (three miles). Millers Run upstream of the Gladden discharge has been trout habitat and the potential now exists for the downstream portions to also be trout habitat.
Delaware County for Sustain Delco
“Sustain Delco” is an initiative spearheaded by Delaware County’s Office of Sustainability. The initiative aims to make Delaware County and its operations more sustainable and resilient to the effects of climate change. Delaware County accomplished this goal by examining government operations, engaging with the community, and working with the new Sustainability Commission to develop a long-term Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. Successes of this initiative include: forming the Office for Sustainability, preserving over 200 acres of green space, and purchasing 15 electric fleet vehicles (and charging stations) using grant funding.
Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy & Pennsylvania Game Commission for Plunketts Creek Berm Removal at Proctor
In the 1940s a 10–12-foot earthen berm was constructed along 2,200 feet of the Creek to protect the former North Central Propagation Farm (now State Game Lands #134) operated by PGC from high water. The berm cut Plunketts Creek off from its floodplain. The work also improved Huckle Run, a High-Quality stream with naturally reproducing trout. Plunketts Creek previously saw multiple 500-year floods in the past decade, but following restoration, Plunketts Creek flowed into its natural floodplain in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, protecting surrounding land and property.
City of Philadelphia Office of Sustainability & the Philadelphia Museum of Art for Guaranteed Energy Savings (GESA) Project
In 2019, the City of Philadelphia embarked on a Guaranteed Energy Savings (GESA) project to update and improve the energy and water systems and operations in the Philadelphia Art Museum, one of the City’s oldest and most intensive energy users. Through a partnership with Johnson Controls Inc. and the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), the multifaceted project addressed inefficient lighting, water, and HVAC systems and an outdated building automation system. The results of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s guaranteed energy savings project are a significant 23 percent reduction in energy use, 8 percent reduction in water use, and reduction in carbon footprint by nearly 2,400 metric tons of CO2e annually.
Nurture Nature Center for Watershed-Friendly Properties
Nurture Nature Center and the Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward program developed a Watershed Friendly Properties education and certification program to expand the number of watershed-friendly properties throughout PA, with the goal of educating residents, communities, educational institutions, and businesses about the value of a healthy watershed and best practices for improving water quality.
Over 600 Pennsylvania residents were reached through the project’s outreach and presentations. To date, there have been a total of 300 applications with 270 passing (a 90 percent pass rate) and 250 “Watershed Friendly Property” signs have been mailed throughout the state representing 49 total counties (almost three-fourths of the state represented). These are properties that are contributing to the health of PA’s watersheds through practices such as rain gardens and other stormwater management strategies, cultivation of native vegetation, elimination of pollution sources, conservation of water (rain barrels), and more.
RGS Associates for Culliton Park
Located in Lancaster’s Southwest (SoWe) neighborhood, this 3.75-acre park exists over an historic stream channel that was long ago sequestered within a 16-foot wide brick culvert. During the 2020 pandemic, this open space was dramatically transformed in accordance with the wishes of those who live in its surrounding neighborhoods. This project creatively addressed stormwater management while maximizing this site’s recreational amenities – many of which were carefully constructed over the subsurface stream and historic stormwater infrastructure. New park features include new recreational areas and amenities, parking with sub-surface stormwater management, public art, site furnishings, and a large central green space.
With a total of 1.37 million gallons of stormwater runoff now annually managed on-site, the performance of Culliton Park’s stormwater management facilities (bio-infiltration basin, underground stone infiltration bed, constructed filter, and rain garden) exceeds municipal and state requirements by 50 percent. In addition, 40 native trees, 100 indigenous shrubs, and 11,000 native herbaceous plants were installed.
Geisinger Gray’s Woods Optimization
Geisinger implemented two energy efficiency projects at two locations. At Geisinger Gray’s Woods, two optimization projects were completed: Unoccupied mode implementation at the AHU Level and Zone-Level minimum airflows. This project implemented schedules for the air handling units (AHUs) and designated times of day to reduce airflow. As a result, airflow was reduced by about 70 percent during unoccupied times. At the zone level, variable air volume boxes were optimized to reduce airflow. Minimums were reduced to allow for greater modulation, especially when the building was unoccupied. The projects exceeded the anticipated performance, saving over 1.7 million kWh/yr.
Fayette County for Fayette County Recycling Program
Fayette County, with the leadership of Sheila Shea, developed a robust countywide recycling program over the course of the last two years. In May 2020, the program placed the first haul-all drop-off recycling bins at Menallen Elementary School in Menallen Township.
Because of these bins, every one of Fayette County’s 42 municipalities now has access to recycling in some form. The recycling program’s next step was to partner with Carry All Products and Superior Fine Grind of South Connellsville – two Fayette County businesses with world-class, state of the art recycling and glass-processing facilities.
Last year, Fayette County purchased Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s former recycling facility and, with the help of DEP grant funding, turned it into the Fayette County Recycling Convenience Center. In its first six months, the recycling center took in more than 500 tons (1 million pounds) of regular and hard-to-recycle items.
Etna Borough for Etna Riverfront Trail and Park
The Etna Riverfront Trail and Park Project was the rehabilitation of an old industrial brownfield into a major trail section along the Allegheny River corridor for the Allegheny County Community Trails Initiative which aims to expand to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which connects to the Pittsburgh to Erie Trail. Elements of the trail/park include rain gardens, a pavilion, picnic seating, bike racks, a bike repair station, and extensive historical and environmental signage.
The main and most important goal was reconnecting the Etna community to its river, the Allegheny, after years of highway expansions, rail corridor development and expansions, and industrial development.
Through this project a large industrial brownfield was transformed to include raingardens, native grasses, and trees. Stormwater will be managed on site and air quality will be improved.
Pottstown Trees, Inc. for Local Actions with Global Benefits: Planting Street Trees in Pottstown
In 1983, when shuttered industrial plants left a scar on the towns’ landscape, Pottstown residents joined to raise the funds necessary to plant trees along neighborhood streets. The positive impacts are evident throughout Pottstown as neighborhoods are filled with tree-lined streets, rebuilt sidewalks, and improved streetscapes. To date, nearly 3,000 new and replacement trees have been planted, 768 dead trees removed, 11,000 trees trimmed, 373 sidewalks repaired, and 131 ash trees treated for disease.
The trees planted by Pottstown Trees, Inc. capture an estimated 72 tons of carbon each year. The trees planted along residential streets and throughout the downtown business district also provide an urban canopy which cools the natural environment and limits the “heat island” effect. Trees planted in Pottstown are estimated to help reduce stormwater runoff into the public infrastructure systems and pollution in the important Schuylkill River watershed by about three million gallons each year.
Penn State Extension for Street 2 Creek Storm Drain Art
The Master Watershed Steward Program in York County organized a contest, Street 2 Creek, for artists interested in painting environmentally-themed murals above storm drains to raise stormwater runoff awareness and the negative impacts it can have on our waterways. Initially launched in 2018 with three drains, Street 2 Creek has been run annually (with six drains done in 2019 and three additional paintings in 2020 and 2021) with a total of 15 pieces of artwork connecting citizens to water quality.
The murals are meant to be appreciated individually or as a series through a self-guided walking tour; a Master Watershed Steward-guided tour has also been led during YorkFest in 2018, 2019, and 2021. The stewards staffed information booths providing bilingual stormwater education brochures from project partners, a Street 2 Creek Trail map and other informational flyers; the tour itself was also offered bilingually, focusing on impacts to the Codorus Creek and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for Activities and Education Portal
Initially developed as a response to the challenges that COVID guidance presented for teachers, parents, and Pennsylvania’s angling and boating community in 2020, PFBC Education staff have spent the past year evolving the Activities and Education Portal into a one-stop environmental education shop where we bring the “fishing, boating, and aquatic resource experience” to participants at home. The PFBC Activities & Education Portal is an expansive resource for anyone interested in aquatic resources and fishing and boating opportunities throughout the commonwealth, which includes videos, activities, printable documents, Pennsylvania League of Angling Youth (PLAY) newsletters, crafts, coloring pages, background information, and more. Topics include: habitat, watersheds, and pollution; indigenous fish species; amphibians and reptiles; aquatic macroinvertebrates; fishing; fly fishing; kayak fishing; boating and water safety; and an overview of the PFBC.
To make educational materials more accessible to people experiencing a vision impairment, PFBC is now releasing audio versions of their most popular newsletters. As supplemental resources to the Read Along with PFBC video project, this project also created a downloadable coloring page and a variety of themed activities and education packages, all of which can be found on the Activities and Education Portal.
Robindale Energy Services for Stineman Refuse Pile – Path of the Flood Trail
This project remediated an abandoned waste coal pile, placed on a steep hillside where the unconsolidated acidic material would wash directly into the South Fork of the Little Conemaugh River after rainfall events. Prior to Robindale’s remediation, the deposition of the acidic material into the river had gone for decades creating hazardous washouts on the pile and impacting a portion of the river’s environmental stability. During this project, Robindale also completed the construction of a 1.6-mile walking and biking trail envisioned by the Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority. The 1.6-mile trail would be part of a much larger project to further develop a trail to the Historic Flood Park in remembrance of the Johnstown Flood (The Great Flood of 1889).