Pennsylvania

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Catalina Jaramillo

Catalina Jaramillo

Reporter

Catalina Jaramillo is a part-time reporter for StateImpact PA. She covers water issues in the Delaware Watershed. She was born and raised in Santiago, Chile, and has written for several publications in Chile, Mexico and the U.S. She’s a graduate of Columbia School of Journalism and has been a Fulbright and Metcalf fellow.

Philadelphia works to bring solar energy costs down to earth

Patrick Whittaker of Solar States installs solar panels on the roof of a home in Bryn Mawr.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Patrick Whittaker of Solar States installs solar panels on the roof of a home in Bryn Mawr.

Anthony LoCicero, a 33-year-old structural engineer raised in South Jersey, has been flirting with the idea of installing solar panels on his three-bedroom brick townhouse in South Philadelphia since he bought it, seven years ago.

“Something about it just sounds like the right thing to do in general, right?” LoCicero said.  “But it just never made financial sense.”

Although the price of solar panels has been dropping over the last five years, the cost of installing a solar system capable of producing most of the energy consumed by a Philadelphia row house still ranges between $10,000 to $30,000 — depending on the amount of energy consumed and the size of the house. But a city-wide solar program, with the goal of installing solar panels on 500 city rooftops by 2018, is currently offering below-market rates and other benefits, to entice homeowners.

“It was surprisingly inexpensive, I was pleasantly surprised,” LoCicero said after meeting with one of the three solar installers participating in Solarize Philly, a company called Solar by Kiss.

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Harvey-level damage probably won’t happen in Philadelphia, but intense flooding already does

A man waves for a tow truck after getting swamped trying to cross a flooded section of the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek merge in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia where flooding is expected to get worse due to rising sea levels.

AP Photo

A man waves for a tow truck after getting swamped trying to cross a flooded section of the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek merge in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia where flooding is expected to get worse due to rising sea levels.

Experts and city authorities say it’s unlikely for Philadelphia to experience a hurricane of Harvey’s magnitude, but parts of the city have been flooding for more than 20 years. And those rising waters are tied to some of the same reasons Houston has been inundated: paving over wetlands.

Janis Pugh, a longtime resident of Eastwick, said rain stresses her out. Her Southwest  Philadelphia neighborhood has flooded at least 10 times since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, causing severe damage to 130 properties.

“When it starts raining, everybody gets a little nervous,” Pugh said.

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Dam removal helps American shad return after disappearing for centuries

Biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad caught near the Warren Glen Dam on the Musconetcong River in Holland Township.

Courtesy of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife

Biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad caught near the Warren Glen Dam on the Musconetcong River in Holland Township.The American shad is making an impressive come back to the Delaware River watershed.

For the first time in centuries, the American shad entered the Musconetcong River during its spring spawning migration upriver this year. The Musky, as it’s known to locals, is a tributary of the Delaware in Northwestern New Jersey. The Hughesville Dam, standing 18 feet tall and 150 feet wide, had blocked its way.

But with the dam demolished last September, the American shad, the largest of the herring family and an angler’s favorite, swam up the Musconetcong for the first time since colonial times.

“It tells quite a story that as soon as you remove a dam — at least on this river — the shad, the next opportunity, are right there,” said New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s principal biologist Pat Hamilton.

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New Jersey oyster farmers betting on a comeback, climate permitting

The Delaware Bay was once known as the capital oyster of the world. In the 1920s, there were about 600 boats fishing wild oysters from the bay.

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

The Delaware Bay was once known as the oyster capital of the world. In the 1920s, there were about 600 boats fishing wild oysters from the bay. Today, there are only 12 oyster boats.

Delaware Bay oysters are on their way back after decades of decline. But questions remain on how climate change will impact the resurgence in the South Jersey towns once known for shipping oysters across the country.

Last century, the South Jersey communities of Bivalve and Shell Pile in Cumberland County, produced over 1 million bushels of oysters, or about 80 million pounds, a year. In 1905, there were 588 boats fishing wild oysters from natural beds in the bay. And oysters were shipped, by train, all over the country and up to Canada. In 2016, the oyster fishery harvested 100,095 bushels a year.

“At one time there were car dealers and movie theaters, and department stores, and tons and tons of speakeasies,” Bivalve Bayshore Center’s restaurant manager Sheri Gatier said. “(Bivalve) was a very big thing when the oyster industry was booming. Unfortunately, when (the oysters) died… it died.”

 

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Street construction poses hidden danger of lead-laced drinking water

Manuel Ortiz looks out his living room window to the street construction outside his home.

Catalina Jaramillo / StateImpact PA

Manuel Ortiz looks out his living room window to the street construction outside his home. Ortiz says he wasn't informed that replacing a water main could cause lead to leach into his tap water from the lead service lines delivering water to his house on the 3000 block of north Rosehill Street in North Philadelphia.

About five years ago, doctors found high levels of lead in the blood of Manuel Ortiz’s oldest son. Ortiz and his wife were surprised. They say Manuel Jr. acted like a normal kid.

Health inspectors told them the culprit was lead-based paint in their rented apartment. Ortiz says the landlord didn’t do anything to fix it, so the family moved out as soon as they could.

What Ortiz didn’t know, was that he moved into a house with a lead service line, which could mean he and his son were drinking water with lead in it. And now, the water department wants to do work on his street that could make the lead levels in his water spike.

But until a reporter showed up at his doorstep, Ortiz said nobody told him about the danger to Manuel Jr. lurking in their water taps.

“He doesn’t act like a normal kid,” said Ortiz. “He is 13 now, but he acts like a kid of 10. I feel sad….we’re a low-income family. A lot of people go through it, we’re not alone.”

Although lead-based paint and contaminated dust are the largest source of lead for children, water remains a constant and unpredictable threat for anyone living in a house with lead water pipes. And advocates say it’s an easy one to fix. Continue reading at PlanPhilly.

Sea level rise to cause chronic flooding in Delaware Bay and Jersey Coast, scientists say

This Feb. 16, 2017 photo shows Marty Mozzo in his back yard in Ocean City N.J. on the edge of a back bay wetlands. When he and his wife were considering buying the house, they looked at a small trickle of water in the distance and wondered if the property would flood, deciding the water was too far away to pose a danger. Within weeks, their hou8se was surrounded by flood waters.

Wayne Parry / AP Photo

This Feb. 16, 2017 photo shows Marty Mozzo in his back yard in Ocean City N.J. on the edge of a back bay wetlands. When he and his wife were considering buying the house, they looked at a small trickle of water in the distance and wondered if the property would flood, deciding the water was too far away to pose a danger. Within weeks, their house was surrounded by flood waters.

About 170 coastal communities across the nation will experience chronic flooding 20 years from now, disrupting people’s life and daily routines, and forcing residents of those communities to make difficult and expensive decisions, according to a study out this week by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In a moderate sea level rise scenario, cities and towns along the Delaware Bay and New Jersey coastlines could see between 15 and 40 percent of their land flooded at least 26 times each year by 2030.

“It’s horrifying,” Suzanne Hornick, chairperson of the Ocean City, NJ Flooding Committee. “My house would be under water in 40 years.”

Hornick is already in a bad situation. She says her home floods about 10 times a year, and she has to fix her basement walls and garage door at least every two years. Every time it rains, Hornick says she moves her car and parks it two or three blocks from her house, so it doesn’t get inundated with water. When winter storm Jonas hit the U.S. in 2016, she couldn’t leave her home for four days. Continue Reading

How one Philadelphia neighborhood battles rising tides

A man waves for a tow truck after getting swamped trying to cross a flooded section of the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek merge in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia where flooding is expected to get worse due to rising sea levels.

AP Photo

A man waves for a tow truck after getting swamped trying to cross a flooded section of the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek merge in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia where flooding is expected to get worse due to rising sea levels.

Joining dozens of communities across the country Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday he has committed the city to a goal of 100 percent clean energy. It’s part of a growing effort by cities and states to reduce their carbon footprint in the wake of President Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, a landmark international effort to cut global carbon emissions to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

In the Philadelphia region, climate scientists say those impacts will include hotter summers, greater rain fall and floods.

One city neighborhood is already working on how to respond to rising sea levels. Climate change is not theoretical for residents of Eastwick, a neighborhood built over a marsh in southwest Philadelphia. The area is already subject to frequent and severe flooding, and researchers say it will only get worse.

At least ten high flow events since 1999 have seriously damaged about 130 properties and city infrastructure, according to the Philadelphia Water Department.

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