By Mary Spicer
It doesn’t take rocket science — or much time looking at old photos of Meadville, for that matter — to figure out that water on the move doesn’t take kindly to stuff getting in its way.
Whether the stuff is ice in French Creek jammed up under a bridge or leaves and branches covering a storm drain on Grove Street or lord-knows-what blocking a culvert crossing under Park Avenue, obstruction precedes disaster pretty much every time.
As a result, considerable time and attention is devoted to making sure that water entering the city’s stormwater system can complete its journey to French Creek unimpeded.
Primary responsibility for physically maintaining the city’s stormwater conveyance system, which includes approximately 1,200 storm sewer inlets and in excess of 30 miles of storm sewer pipe, rests with the city’s Public Works Department, which defines its departmental objective as “To provide a transportation system which meets the needs of the City for the movement of people which is safe, expeditious, economical, aesthetic, convenient, and promotes the economic well-being and development of the City. To enhance and maintain the attractiveness and utility of public buildings and grounds, and to provide a system of parks and recreational facilities for enjoyment by the public.”
While these activities may appear to be remarkably unrelated to stormwater management, it has been observed that when one comes right down to it, many of the daily functions of municipal government in the City of Meadville involve stormwater control.
Keeping the stormwater flowing
Just as all aspects of stormwater management have been distributed throughout the ranks of Meadville’s city government and are handled by multi-tasking personnel, stormwater operations and maintenance tasks are handled by public works employees working under eight different job titles who are also responsible for an assortment of other tasks.
According to a study of the city’s stormwater system conducted by consultants Jean Haggerty and Brian Merritt of AMEC Environment & Infrastructure Inc., maintaining 1,200 storm sewer inlets and more than 30 miles of storm sewer pipe is just the beginning.
Haggerty and Merritt’s evaluation of the current system indicates that operating and maintaining the city’s stormwater system also includes:
- Operating and maintaining Rainbow Lake Dam and the Mill Run Flood Control Project.
- Maintaining best management practices in Shadybrook Park, which is located in the Rainbow spillway.
- Maintaining vegetation within the city right-of-way.
- Addressing erosion and sediment control issues on city property.
- Responding to emergencies and handling emergency repairs to the conveyance system. “You don’t have a proactive program,” Haggerty has cautioned. “If something breaks, you fix it.”
- Replacing catch basins and inlets as needed.
- Replacing components of the conveyance system as needed or as funding becomes available. In 2010, for example, approximately 500 linear feet of storm sewer was replaced — representing roughly 0.3 percent of the entire system.
- Collecting and disposing of material collected from street sweeping as well as pipe- and inlet-cleaning activities. The material is currently stockpiled at the city’s former Liberty Street incinerator site.
- Maintaining streams and floodways within the city’s park system.
- Dredging and removing woody material from under publicly-owned bridges.
- Maintaining city-owned vehicles including work trucks, street sweeper and vacuum truck, which are all used periodically for stormwater-related activities. According to Haggerty and Merritt, major repairs are required. “The street sweeper is currently beyond its expected service life and requires costly repairs to remain in operation,” they wrote. “Staff anticipated the street sweeper will need to be replaced within the extra year.”
- Small in-house construction or repair projects.