Environment
3:30 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Bioswale Helps Millvale with Flooding Problem

The bioswale on Hawthorne Road is built to look like a natural stream bed. It blends into the existing hillside.
Credit Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

Pennsylvania's climate change forecast is wet. More frequent and increasingly intense storms than in the past are expected. One community which has already faced devastating floods is finding that a particular kind of green infrastructure called a bioswale could be part of the solution.

The story starts with the Sisters of St. Francis, whose convent sits on top of a steep hill called Mount Alvernia.  It looks down onto the town of Millvale, just outside of Pittsburgh. The sisters are Franciscans, which means they have a special commitment to nature, like their namesake St. Francis, the patron saint of the environment.

"He called things like Mother Earth and Brother Sun and Sister Moon.  And Sister Water," says Sister Donna Zwigart, one of the residents at Mount Alvernia.

Looking down from the top of the hill, you can see that the well- manicured landscape and trees mean a lot to the Sisters. Zwigart says that during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the hillside was washed out.

The flooding cost the sisters thousands of dollars, and the town of Millvale was a federal disaster area. It flooded again in 2007. That’s why when the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy offered to build a $100,000 bioswale on the Sisters' property, it didn’t take much convincing.

Read more of this report at the website of our partner The Allegheny Front.