Keep It Flowing: Allegheny CleanWays Event Needs Help To Clear Debris From Stormwater Grates

(Pittsburgh Union Progress) Allegheny CleanWays has worked since 2000 to keep Allegheny County’s waterways clean and to empower people to eliminate illegal dumping and littering in their communities.

This Saturday, it is trying something new with partners Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Penn State Watershed Stewards: a community cleanup of stormwater grates in Larimer. It is the pilot public group event for the nonprofit organization’s GrateKeepers initiative, something Gwen Sadler, ACW’s water-based programs coordinator, hopes will teach people about the issues involved in municipal water and sewage structure, critically important components for communities. And they will have some fun, too, while building community and cleaning up the neighborhood.

The event starts at 9 a.m. in Liberty Green Park in Larimer, with a free breakfast for volunteers provided by PWSA. Volunteers will split up and venture throughout Larimer and East Liberty, removing debris that clogs stormwater drains. Sadler hopes for at least 20 volunteers to clean between 20 and 30 grates before the event ends at 11 a.m.

The cleanup is vital. The debris buildup on grates contributes to flooding, infrastructure damage and river pollution, according to an ACW news release. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed it as a factor in the structural degradation and subsequent collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge on Jan. 28, 2022, as illustrated in this NTSB video.

The record rainfall this spring has intensified the issue, Sadler said, and that pattern will only increase in the future with climate change.

Organizers chose Liberty Green Park, which opened in 2021, as the starting point because it is an example of the city of Pittsburgh’s efforts to install green infrastructure, combining that with a new park for residents to enjoy, Sadler said.

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See volunteer opportunities with Allegheny Cleanways