Monday, October 26, 2009


This summer the Newport Chapter hosted 4 stops for the XplOregon teen road trips program from June through August. The kids arrived on Wednesday nights to set up camp in South Beach or Beverley Beach State Parks. On Thursday morning Newport Chapter volunteers (Matt, Beth, Phil, Joe) met with groups to introduce the Blue Water Task Force program. The kids then went out and collected water samples from 4 different beaches and returned them to the Oregon Coast Aquarium water quality lab where Tricia Ratliff (OCA Youth Volunteer Coordinator) and Charlie (Surfrider OR field coordinator) led them on a tour of the lab, explaining the testing equipment and protocols. The kids then had surfing lessons at one of the beaches where they tested. On Friday morning, Newport Chapter volunteers led the kids on a 2 hour beach cleanup followed with the group returning to the Aquarium to see the results from their water testing of the previous day.

Through this program the XplOregon teens and the Surfrider Foundation formed a strong partnership, advancing youth coastal stewardship values in Oregon for a group of kids who otherwise have little experience with ocean resources.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BWTF Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Blue Water Task Force?

The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is a chapter-based, water quality monitoring program, run by volunteers. Most chapters test the water at their favorite beaches, but some chapters also sample upstream in their watersheds if there are freshwater areas important for recreation or if they are investigating the sources of beach water pollution.

2. What are we testing for?

The methods used by the BWTF measure the amount of indicator bacteria in a water sample. E. coli (not the same species that causes food poisoning) is measured in freshwater samples, and Enterococcus bacteria are measured in marine water to determine the health risk of exposure to these waters. The water quality standard mandated by the EPA to open and close beaches in the U.S. is based on these bacteria.

While not harmful on their own account, E. coli and Enterococcus are both types of fecal bacteria that can indicate the presence of more dangerous microorganisms and viruses. Fecal bacteria are found primarily in the intestinal tracts of mammals and birds, and are released into the environment through human and animal feces.

Fecal pollution at beaches could come from pets and wildlife, human sewage leaks or spills, and storm water runoff (especially in locations where sanitary sewers and storm sewers are combined). If the levels of indicator bacteria are high, then there are likely to also be other contaminants in the water found in human or animal feces that could make people sick, generally with skin rashes or gastro-intestinal symptoms.

Read more about indicator bacteria and why we test for them in Surfrider’s Coastal A-Z or on the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch website .

3. Why are chapters testing beach water?

A) To provide information on the safety of swimming and surfing at the beaches in their community.

Surfrider volunteers can collect samples from beaches that are not covered by city or state monitoring programs, or during times when no one else is testing, i.e. during the off-peak winter season. Some chapters sample the same beaches as their local agencies, but stagger their sampling times. For instance if the Department of Health samples only on Mondays, then the chapter collects samples on Thursday or Friday.

You can read about how other chapters are using their BWTF programs to fill-in information gaps on the BWTF blog.

B) Education

Many BWTF programs are based in high schools and expose students and other youth groups to environmental science and local water quality and pollution issues. Participating in water testing programs is also educational for adult volunteers.

C) Motivate a movement of care for our coasts

BWTF volunteers often become advocates for the beaches and watersheds they are monitoring and are inspired to make changes at their schools, homes and businesses to decrease their impact on local waterways. The BWTF youth volunteers in Newport, Oregon clearly demonstrate this ethic and are working to promote coastal stewardship in their community.

D) Increase public awareness of local water quality issues

BWTF volunteers let their communities know about the areas where pollution is detected and bring their concerns to their local officials and environmental agencies.

E) Solve water quality problems, prevent pollution

BWTF volunteers often try to determine what is causing the pollution when their water samples consistently test high for bacteria. Many chapters bring their data to local officials when water quality issues are discovered, press for further investigation, and offer solutions. Read more here.

4) Do I need any formal science training or previous experience to start this program?

No. The water testing methods used by the BWTF can be mastered by most after a few trial runs. A manual is posted online and you can contact Mara Dias, Surfrider’s Water Quality Coordinator,, if you need any help along the way.

5) Can I get sick or otherwise harmed from performing these water tests?

Probably Not. It is recommended that everyone puts on plastic gloves before handling a water sample. This prevents any cross contamination of bacteria from your hands to the water and vice versa. Washing your hands with an anti-bacterial soap after sampling and when you are finished in the laboratory will also ensure that you don’t expose yourself to any bacteria that may or might not be in your samples. It is also recommended that you proceed with caution on slippery ground and rough surf so as to not fall into the water.

In general, it is also recommended for your safety that you take a shower after swimming in the ocean or digging in the sand, to rinse away any potential contaminants that might be in the water. USGS lab experiments have shown that submerging one’s hands four times in clean water removes more than 99% of the E. coli and associated viruses from the hands.

6) How much does it cost to start a water testing program?

It depends which method you choose to use. You can test your water samples by using either an IDEXX Quantitray Sealer or a multiple test tube method. The sealer is easier to use, generates less disposables and gives more specific results, but it is more costly, at approximately $6000 for the initial laboratory set-up. The multiple test tube method costs about $2000 for the initial laboratory set-up, and certainly would be a good start for a chapter interested in trying out the program. Both set-ups come with enough supplies to run approximately 200 water samples. Once supplies need to be replaced, it costs about $6 in expendable materials to process each sample.

Contact Mara Dias once you’ve decided to start this program to order water testing equipment and supplies.

7) How many volunteers do you need to run this program?

It depends on how many beaches you want to sample. The basic functions you need to cover are collecting water samples at the beach, delivering them to the lab, processing the samples for analysis and reading the results the next day. One person is able to cover all of these tasks for some chapters that sample only a few beaches, while other chapters designate a BWTF coordinator that manages 10-20 volunteers.

8) How much time is required of the volunteers?

Again, it depends on how many beaches are sampled. It could take as little as thirty minutes to collect the water samples and bring them to the lab or upwards to 3-4 hours. Each sample takes less than 10 minutes to prepare in the laboratory once you’ve mastered the procedure. Somebody also needs to return to the lab the next day to read the results and enter the data on the BWTF website (usually less than 30 mins).

9) Do I need a lot of space to set-up the water testing equipment?

The space requirement isn’t huge. You need a small working space, a counter top or small table in a garage or basement could suffice. You also need a place to store the incubator and sealer, if you choose to use one. The incubator is the size of a very small dorm fridge, and the sealer is the size of a really small, inexpensive microwave oven. Both run on 110v power.

Planning a Beach Monitoring Program: Initial Considerations

If you have decided to join the Blue Water Task Force and start testing the water at your local beaches, this posting is for you!

In order to set up a successful water-testing program, there are a number of things you should consider first and plan with your chapter.

1. Why do you want to test the water? What are you concerned about?

It is important to have a clear objective for your water-testing program before you begin. A clear objective or defined purpose will help you design a water testing program to meet your chapter’s unique interests and needs. All the rest of the details can then follow.

Does your chapter suspect a pollution problem at a particular beach? Are there beaches in your area that are not being tested by the authorities? Are you looking for a program to activate your membership or to reach out to youth? Perhaps you have a data need for an ongoing campaign.

FAQ #3 in previous post describes the purposes and objectives of different BWTF chapter programs. There is also a really good discussion of sources of beach pollution in Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) “Testing the Waters” report that might give you some ideas on what factors could be affecting your local beaches.

2. Who else is testing your beaches?

Before you choose what beaches you want to sample, or if additional testing is even necessary, you should find out who is monitoring water quality in your area and which beaches they are sampling.

A good place to start looking is in the “Testing the Waters” report. By following this online report to your state’s summary, you will find all of the government agencies that are conducting beach monitoring, a discussion of the standards and procedures used to issue swimming advisories and beach closures, and a list of the covered beaches in your area.

Much of the same information can be found on the Surfrider Foundation’s State of the Beach Report, as well as discussions of local water quality issues and contacts to state and local beach monitoring programs. Follow the State of the Beach Report to your state and click on Water Quality.

There could also be other volunteer groups testing the water in your watershed. There is a directory of volunteer monitoring groups on the EPA’s website. You might be able to find another local group in this directory.

You can also look to the government agencies and other NGOs who are running beach monitoring programs in your area to look for opportunities to partner. Many chapters have formed very successful partnerships to implement their Blue Water Task Force programs.

3. Where & when should we sample?

Once you determine who is testing in your area, look for any gaps: either beaches that aren’t being sampled or perhaps months or seasons when no testing is being done at all. You also might want to test the water at the most popular surfing beaches or at beaches where you suspect or know there are sources of pollution nearby.

You can set up your monitoring plan to sample weekly, biweekly or monthly. You might want to sample throughout the year or just during the fall, winter & spring months when there might not be anyone else doing any monitoring in your area. How many beaches and how often you sample are going to largely depend on how much you are able to spend, how many volunteers you have and of course, the objective of your particular testing program.

4. How much money can my chapter afford to spend on this program?

Testing water costs money. It could run anywhere from $2000 - $6000 to get a water testing program started, with an ongoing cost of approximately $6 per sample (see FAQ #5 in previous post).

Does your chapter have funds to run this program already in the bank, or will you need to hold fundraisers to raise the money? It is important to consider cost and your chapter’s available funds when choosing which method to use and how many samples you plan on collecting.

5. What method should we use to analyze our water samples?

You will need to choose between using an IDEXX Quantitray Sealer or the multiple test tube method. The sealer is easier to use, generates less disposables and gives more specific results. It is also an EPA approved method, but it is more costly, at approximately $6000 for the initial laboratory set-up. The multiple test tube method costs about $2000 for the initial laboratory set-up, and certainly would be a good start for a chapter interested in trying out the program. Both set-ups come with enough supplies to run approximately 200 water samples. Once supplies need to be replaced, it costs about $6 in expendable materials to process each sample. Cost is usually the deciding factor in method selection.

Contact Mara Dias ( for a complete list of laboratory equipment and supplies needed and current pricing.

6. How many people in my chapter are interested in volunteering their time to collect and process water samples? Do we have one or two committed volunteers to coordinate the program?

In order to build a successful, volunteer water testing program, you need to make sure that the work required does not exceed the capacity of the volunteers that you have to implement the program (see FAQ #7 in previous post). For instance, you can’t monitor 30 beaches every week with 2 volunteers. When you design your sampling plan and decide on the number of beaches you want to monitor and the frequency of sampling, you need to consider the number of volunteers that you have, the amount of time they are able to volunteer each week (or month), and the distance your target beaches are from each other and from the lab.

This is also a good time to consider how you can recruit volunteers into the program and provide incentives to keep people motivated. Volunteer turn-over is often the biggest challenge faced by volunteer water testing programs.

7. Where will we set up our water-testing laboratory?

While the space requirement isn’t huge (see FAQ #8 in previous post) you do need a place to store your equipment and supplies and process the water samples. A central location near the target beaches, that is easily accessible to volunteers for sample drop-off, works best. Samples need to be kept cool during transport and must be prepared within 6 hours of being collected.

Some chapters have formed partnerships with environmental labs, aquariums & other non-profits to host their lab space.

8. Do we have to worry about complicated Quality Control procedures?

The quality control requirements for this volunteer water-testing program are minimal. It is important to follow the outlined procedures step-by-step each time you sample and perform lab work, but at least in the beginning, there is no reason for a volunteer laboratory to adopt complicated Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) that are required of labs whose data have regulatory and enforcement authority. For instance, a county department of health laboratory that runs samples so that decisions can be made to close or open beaches would have to follow strict QAPP procedures.

Besides following the outlined procedures exactly, it is also recommended that chapter water testing programs run a blank with their samples and an occasional duplicate sample to check for precision and bias in their results.

9. What will we do with our data?

Before you start collecting water samples, you should determine what you are going to do with your data. There is an online database, accessible through the Surfrider Foundation’s website, where each chapter’s BWTF data can be stored and viewed. Someone at Surfrider headquarters can help build a data input page specifically for your chapter, showing your local beaches or other sample locations. For more information contact Mark Babski,

In addition to entering your data into this database, there are a host of different media you can use to share your data and raise the visibility of your water testing program and your chapter in your community. Many chapters post their data or put a link to the BWTF database on their websites. You can prepare a brief report to email to your chapter members and other interested parties, local newspapers, local government or surfshops. You could also post a flier (see example) at the beach and around town showing your data. Many student-based BWTF programs hold community events at the end of a school year or semester to present their findings and discuss local water quality issues. Some even make presentations before their city council.

You should also identify who you are going to bring your concerns to if your data make you suspect that there is a pollution problem at one of your testing sites. This could be the local department of health or environmental agency, city council or mayor. Read how Surfrider chapters have used the findings from their water testing programs to bring awareness to a pollution problem and to motivate their local governments to investigate the sources of pollution and take steps towards remediation.

10. How do we know if our program is successful?

It is always wise to take the time to step back from the routine of running your water-testing program to evaluate what is working well and what areas could be improved upon. If you plan this evaluation from the onset, then you will be more likely to make this effort. Ideally this evaluation would include a discussion with your volunteers and the chapter’s executive committee and would be presented at a chapter meeting to ensure that the water-testing program remains tied-in with the local chapter’s needs and interests.

11. Questions?

If you have any questions on anything you’ve read on this page or about starting up a water-testing program please contact Mara Dias, Surfrider’s Water Quality Coordinator, at

You may also find some useful tips in the EPA’s guide for starting a volunteer monitoring program.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kalapaki water quality concerns residents

Kaua'i BWTF makes local headlines again. This time on the front page!

The Chapter shared their results with a reporter that they have been working with to cover water pollution issues on the island. The paper's investigation has led to questionable storm water pumping practices of a neighboring resort. Hopefully, this public awareness will also lead to better notification of potential health risks from polluted water and political will to solve this pollution problem.

Local news story below and online.

Remnants of run-off water pumped from a dry well by Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club on Oct. 5 are seen in this photo taken two days later. Bacteria levels were elevated Saturday at Kalapaki Bay prior to last weekend’s heavy rainfall based on data collected by Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i. Robert Zelkovsky/Contributed Photo

Kalapaki water quality concerns residents

by Coco Zickos - The Garden Island
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009 2:10 AM HST
KALAPAKI — Bacteria levels measured more than 40 times state and federally deemed safe levels at Kalapaki stream early Saturday morning based on samples collected by Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i volunteers.
A sample taken from Kalapaki Bay contained elevated levels of enterococcus bacteria — the current indicator for fecal matter — even though the water “looked clean” and it was “prior to heavy rainfall,” said Dr. Carl Berg of Surfrider.

While the source of contamination remains unknown, some have speculated possible sources.

One resident said he witnessed individuals from Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club pumping run-off water from a dry well into a “pit in the sand” at Kalapaki on Oct. 5.

“It looked foul and smelled awful,” Robert Zelkovsky of Surfrider said Friday. “The whole thing didn’t look right to me.”

Chauncey Hew, a geologist for the Department of Health’s Underground Injection Control Programming Unit, said the occurrence has actually been a “long standing and unresolved issue” and that the facility has a “number of drainage wells” that have been reported to have “overflows.”

“I just think it should be disposed of properly and not just into the sand,” said Zelkovsky, who reported the incident to the DOH. “To contribute to the condition of Kalapaki in any way is just not pono.”

A Marriott spokesperson provided a statement via e-mail from the hotel’s General Manager Elliot Mills:

“The dry well at Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club was filled with heavy rainfall on Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 9. Consistent with procedures approved by the Department of Health, to prevent overflow, Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club released the water from the well, which took the path to Kalapaki Beach. The effects did not cause any beach closure. Kalapaki Beach remains open for water recreation activities.”

The DOH completed an inspection Sept. 21, according to Engineering Section Supervisor JoAnna Seto. An individual had reportedly “observed what was occurring and made a report” at that time as well.

“Based on the inspection, the Clean Water Branch will be doing enforcement,” she said Wednesday. “We’re trying to get more information.”

From a pollution standpoint, Hew said the quality of run-off water is “not that bad,” unless there is “some kind of abuse or redirection of water,” such as shower water or cesspool drainage.

“They may not be breaking any rules,” he said, adding that they will be “getting an accurate count on the number of drains, their operating condition and type of wastewaters that may be entering into them.”

When asked how the county responds to such issues as water quality and whether it has considered working with organizations, such as Surfrider, to warn individuals of potentially hazardous water conditions, Beth Tokioka, executive assistant to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., said it is the county’s preference to “have DOH at the table.”

“Currently our procedures call for us to close beaches and/or erect warning signs upon notification from the Department of Health,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The Clean Water Branch will soon be losing four of its 10 staff members under the state’s proposed layoffs, Monitoring and Analysis Section Chief Watson Okubo said last month.

“Even though we don’t know the cause, there should be warning signs,” Berg said, regarding Kalapaki stream’s continuously high levels of bacteria.

Pathogens from polluted waters cause illnesses such as vomiting, headache, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, skin, ear, eye and respiratory infections, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

• Coco Zickos, business and environmental writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Posting Pollution Advisories on Kaua'i

The Kauai Chapter has just succeeded in convincing the State Department of Health to post a pollution advisory sign at a chronically polluted, but very popular beach. This is the first time any such permanent sign has been posted on the island warning people of poor water quality. The advisory has been posted at a heavily used, recreational spot along the Hanalei River.

The Chapter, led by BWTF Coordinator Dr. Carl Berg, is continuing to petition the State to post the other chronically polluted beaches on the island as well. The Department of Health, however, wants more information about the source of bacteria pollution at these beaches before it posts any more signs. Specifically, the State wants to confirm that there are human sources (septic systems or leeching pools) contributing to these polluted beaches before further warning the public of the potential health risk.

The Chapter has been trying to facilitate some source tracking studies on Kaua'i to provide the information they need to convince the State to post more signs and take steps to prevent the pollution from reaching the beaches in the first place. So far, the University of Stanford has started sampling and will hopefully be able to shed some light on where the pollution is coming from.

Local coverage of this issue can be found on The Garden Island's website.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Philadelphia Makes Plans to Become Water Friendly

Ordered by the EPA to reduce the city's combined sewer overflows (CSOs), Philadelphia is dismissing some of the more traditional, hard infrastructure dependent solutions to deal with stormwater and is instead, hoping to implement Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure techniques to restore the natural water cycle throughout the city's neighborhoods. If these plans come to fruition, see below, this will be the largest scale application of green techniques to control stormwater runoff and protect water quality.

Breaking ground with a $1.6 billion plan to tame water

Philadelphia has announced a $1.6 billion plan to transform the city over the next 20 years by embracing its storm water - instead of hustling it down sewers and into rivers as fast as possible.

The proposal, which several experts called the nation's most ambitious, reimagines the city as an oasis of rain gardens, green roofs, thousands of additional trees, porous pavement, and more.

All would act as sponges to absorb - or at least stall - the billions of gallons of rainwater that overwhelm the city sewer system every year.

The plan's complex funding formula would raise rates somewhat but also attract grants and encourage private investment.

Further, the Water Department says the city's greening would result in more jobs, higher property values, better air quality, less energy use, and even fewer deaths - from excess heat.

The plan is a radical departure from the highly engineered tunnels and sewage plant expansions cities have traditionally opted for.

"This is the most significant use of green infrastructure I've seen in the country, the largest scale I've seen," said Jon Capacasa, regional director of water protection for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the final say on whether the plan passes muster.

"We commend Philadelphia for breaking the ice," he said.

Whether the plan will work as the department intends is still being analyzed by regulators and environmental experts. (This will take a while. The printed plan is 3,369 pages.)

Theoretically, it's workable, said the Natural Resources Defense Council's water expert, Nancy Stoner. The green techniques "are well-demonstrated," she said. "It's the scaling up that's new. That's what's really exciting."

Others concur - mostly.

"I believe it's the most significant investment in transforming the city that we'll see in our lifetimes," said Patrick Starr, senior vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. "It will change the way neighborhoods look, the way many streets and blocks look."

Either way, cities big and small are watching to see whether Philadelphia can get the plan approved by the EPA and, if so, deliver on its promise.

"This has national implications," said Christine Knapp, outreach director with the state environmental nonprofit PennFuture.

Here's the trouble with storm water: 60 percent of the city has a combined sewer system, which means both runoff from streets and wastewater from bathrooms and kitchens flow through the same pipes.

In dry weather, the system works pretty well, considering that portions are more than a century old.

But when it rains - even as little as a tenth of an inch - the system overflows.

With no place to go, the water - now laced with road oil, litter, and raw sewage - gushes from 164 pipes directly into the Delaware, the Schuylkill, and Tacony, Pennypack, and Cobbs Creeks. Bacteria levels skyrocket.

Like many cities, Philadelphia is under orders to come up with a plan to reduce the overflows, which amount to 14 billion gallons a year.

About 12 years ago, when officials started devising the plan, they ruled out separating the storm-water and sanitary lines, as is already the case in newer sections of the city.

That would have involved reconfiguring 1,600 miles of pipes and digging up every yard and front walk.

Plus, "it's so expensive nobody even looks at it," said Villanova professor Robert Traver, a storm-water expert.

Two traditional options remained: massively expanding the city's three sewage plants or building gigantic underground tunnels to hold the overflow until it could be pumped back out and treated.

Neither was efficient. On sunny days, the capacity would be wasted. And both options were expensive.

The District of Columbia, for instance, is spending $2.2 billion mostly for three tunnels to handle sewer overflows of three billion gallons a year. The largest will be eight miles long and 23 feet in diameter.

Philadelphia is planning a small expansion of its plants, a minor part of the plan.

But when engineers began to figure what a Philadelphia tunnel would look like (35 feet in diameter) and where it would go (150 feet under the Delaware), they balked.

"Instead of figuring out how to manage this pollution, maybe we should be looking at how to prevent it in the first place," said Howard Neukrug, director of the Office of Watersheds in the Water Department. "Let's break down some of the barriers against nature and deal with rainwater where it lands."

The idea now is to "peel back" the city's concrete and asphalt and replace them with plants - with rain gardens, green roofs, heavily planted curb extensions, vegetated "swales" in parking lots, and mini-wetlands.

Everything from impervious streets to basketball courts would be replaced with paving made out of larger particles that let rainwater flow through and leave no puddles behind.

Where the changes occur on public land, officials hope to leverage other agencies - and share the cost.

Every time a street is dug up for work on utilities, for instance, it can be repaved - at a slightly higher cost - with a porous asphalt.

Or in the case of a playground, like the demonstration project at Second and Reed Streets in South Philadelphia, the Water Department lends its expertise.

The park's rain garden makes it prettier, and the shredded tires on the play surface are not only porous, but also safer for kids since they are soft.

Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, said that the effort reflected Mayor Nutter's GreenWorks sustainability road map announced in the spring and that she would do what she could to make this "gutsy" plan work.

As for commercial properties, the city now requires that large developments or redevelopments - ones that disturb 15,000 square feet of land or more - install systems to capture runoff.

For many projects, that means a green roof, which costs more but reduces heating and cooling costs and lasts longer. The one installed on the Philadelphia Museum of Art's parking garage - with one to five feet of soil - supports a sculpture garden.

In July, the Water Department will begin phasing in commercial rates based not on how much water a facility uses, but on how much impervious surface it has.

For a parking lot with, say, three acres of asphalt and two bathrooms, the rates will jump, giving owners incentive to repave.

As for residences, officials are hoping rain barrels on household downspouts become as common as the city's blue recycling buckets.

But even the plan's most ardent supporters see flaws.

For one, it doesn't go far enough. The EPA wants to see overflows reduced by 85 percent; this plan gets the city to just 80 percent.

Cost is also an issue. The department is projecting - with considerable margin for error, given the time frame - that implementing the plan will add $8 to the typical resident's monthly sewer bill over the next two decades, more than the EPA would like.

But this could change. Cutler thinks the plan is ripe for attracting federal funding.

And grants. "There aren't many entities that want to give you money for a tunnel," said Neukrug. "But if the objective is trees, there are a lot of organizations and folks and government agencies that are supportive of that."

Starr, however, is worried the plan depends too heavily on private landowners and an assumption that economic development will not stall.

The city has been shopping its plan to neighborhood groups.

Although there were a few concerns - people who don't like street trees, people worried that letting the rain soak in will make their basements wet - what astounded Water Department officials most was the enthusiasm they found.

Originally hoping to partner with three neighborhoods that would agree to have a few blocks rebuilt, they got such a positive response they upped the ante to 14.

"I love it," said the Rev. Chester Williams, president of the Chew and Bellfield Neighborhood Club. In his view, what's not to like about cleaner air, cooler houses, and prettier streets?

"We're just praying that it moves a little faster," he said.

Ken Kirk, executive director of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, an industry group, said Philadelphia's plan is "very compelling. It may take a little longer, but at the end of the day, they will be using a lot less energy, they will be using the water resources more efficiently, they will be capturing and recharging groundwater under the city, they'll have less pollution of the rivers.

"So, from a lot of different perspectives, that is the way we want to go," Kirk said. "That is the way we need to go."

Contact staff writer Sandy Bauers

at 215-854-5147 or