Water We Thinking?

East Falls clogs progress for Philly water safety upgrades (video).

Not to freak anyone out, but according to a Federal security bulletin no one seems to be talking about (?!), there’s an imminent threat of malicious cyberattacks on our drinking water. Systems around the country have already been hacked by Iran and China – one recent incident occurred next door in Western PA. Experts predict with “high confidence” that these nations (and others) are “pre-positioning” themselves to disrupt critical infrastructure in the event of political tension or military conflict. 😬😬😬

The good news is, the Philadelphia Water Department has already been working on plans (and funding) to overhaul our aging systems with 21st century technology. Their 25-year Water Revitalization Plan outlines steps for smarter, more efficient water infrastructure that shores up security and provides optimal quality, safety, and resiliency. (All while keeping water bills as low as possible for ratepayers, which is one reason why the plan is spread over 25 years.) As you can imagine, this involves a bunch of different projects but the crown jewel, so to speak, is an impressive plan to tunnel under the Schuylkill River and connect Belmont and Queen Lane reservoirs on either side.

The ultimate goal is “100% redundancy,” which means all of the city’s reservoirs – we have three – will be interconnected, and able to sub for one another in the event of contamination, equipment failure, extreme weather event, cyber/domestic terrorism, or anything else that might shut a water source down, and send us all into a panic.

🔙 TIME WARP!  Remember last year when we had that chemical spill in the Delaware River? The city merely suggested some residents lay off the tap water until they had a chance to test it. And then suddenly all the bottled water disappeared from store shelves overnight. People were driving out to Costco, coming back with cases of water, and then 48 hours later, it turned out there had been no breach, and our water was fine. But what if it hadn’t been?

Safe, purified water is necessary for survival. It’s not just how we hydrate but we need it for cooking and cleaning, too, in our homes and businesses, and also our streets, schools, and hospitals. As one of the poorest big cities in the country, a lot of Philadelphians don’t have the means to just roll out to the suburbs for a week’s water supply. Frankly, it’d be a disaster if whole swaths of the city had to make do without running water. No wonder nefarious forces have targeted us here.

PWD is ready to start shoring up our water system, and so far they’ve gotten almost all the support they need from Philadelphians living near key infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, there’s been one hold-out, and it hits close to home for us, literally: East Falls, where our Queen Lane Reservoir is slated for a complete overhaul.

Seems a handful of folks in the graceful homes across the street are concerned about their view, their comfort, and their property values. And they’ve got PWD over a barrel, because the Water Department needs new zoning, and East Falls Community Council (the neighborhood’s “RCO“) has considerable sway in this process.

So now a bunch of EFCC members are using every civic and legal recourse to block any new zoning until PWD shows them their complete and detailed architectural plans for Queen Lane, and agrees to a binding agreement that puts their preferences on lighting, landscaping, signage, driveways, fencing, and more into law. These East Falls residents will allow nothing to move forward, without an explicit, legislative course of action in the event that PWD fails to live up to pages of line-item promises.

Might they have a point, though? Compare the pleasant public greenspace here with the weeds and cyclone fencing along the reservoir where it faces low-income housing around Abbotsford Avenue (and even the mid-income homes on Henry). It’s hard to deny that EFCC’s rabid activism has benefited their side of the reservoir. Then again, it’s a shame that all this community advocacy couldn’t have lobbied for quality-of-life improvements for everyone living by the reservoir.

This seems especially noteworthy considering EFCC members have openly discussed reaching out to Abbotsford neighbors in order to pursue environmental justice angles “which are sensitive issues for federal, state, and local regulators.” Yikes. Kinda begs the question, then: if they really cared about justice, why haven’t they always supported equal treatment for all the reservoir’s neighbors? Why such a clear disparity in the first place? How does it come off that their input suddenly matters now? 🤔

You wouldn’t know it from EFCC’s hype, but PWD has already agreed to put their intentions in writing, and they remain very pro-active about working with neighbors. They host regular Community Listening Sessions throughout the city (and virtually), making every effort to explain projects, answer questions, and gather feedback.

There’s also a special Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) of 14 neighbors expressly focused on the Revitalization Plan. They’re specially-trained, boots-0n-the-ground ambassadors also serving as intermediaries between residents and PWD at every stage of the 25 year plan. Fun Fact: East Falls has more representation than any other neighborhood (two SAG members, and one alternate).

In addition, PWD has met with EFCC in-person, addressing their 4 – 5 pages of demands in a community agreement, and they’ve also offered to sign a formal letter of commitment. As for their master plan, they say simply don’t have everything all mapped out to the degree that EFCC is asking for. It’s a 25 year plan. So much depends on federal requirements, energy codes, the sequencing schedule, and so forth. Queen Lane’s upgrades are tenth on their list (the Schuylkill River pipe is third) – there’s a lot that could change in the interim.

EFCC is not having it. For zoning chair Hilary Langer, the Water Department’s explanation is a “big smokescreen.” He stressed the committee’s resolve to pressure District councilmember Curtis Jones to stop PWD’s re-zoning until they have a satisfactory master plan and an enforceable agreement. They’re raising money, printing lawn signs, planning impact reports – really digging in for the long haul and potentially creating years of obstruction.

TRUE STORY: Time is money! Delays can add significant costs to projects, that would reasonably be reflected in higher customer rates we all have to pay. 📅💸💳  (just sayin’)

Now, we appreciate community watchdogs, really we do!

But PWD isn’t some get-rich-quick developer. They’re a public utility, not a profit-driven enterprise. Philadelphia’s Water Department has been in service since 1801, they are more than qualified experts in current best practices for water infrastructure. If they say it’s urgent to start upgrading sites now — and the reps at a recent listening session said they need to start “yesterday” —  we’re inclined to believe them. Furthermore, based on what we know after 10 years of covering their projects, we trust their engineering skills and their community outreach.

And worst-case scenario: we even trust there are civic and legal options, in the event of unforeseen damages. But the whole city’s water supply is hanging in the balance here. Can we worry about lumens and shrubbery later? The reservoir has been here since 1895, aren’t repairs and upgrades part of living across from a public work, anyway? Can you guys maybe suck it up just a little for the common good? Please? All the other affected neighborhoods are on-board.

On March 20th, Councilmember Jones mediated a session between EFCC and PWD, listening to each side and concluding that they need to figure things out before City Council’s Rules Committee meeting April 8th, when the zoning bill is heard. “He did not indicate what action he would take if there is no agreement,” his chief of staff said. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for everyone’s health and safety.

LEARN MORE in the links provided and the transcription below. Reach out to PWD via water.phila.gov/listening, and email info@EastFallsCommunity.org to connect with the EFCC (view/sign their petition here). Please consider contacting Councilmember Curtis Jones: via City Hall, and also Facebook + Instagram.

Go ahead and leave your thoughts and questions in the Comments below, or email editor@nwlocalpaper.com and we’ll do our best to hear you and respond helpfully. In particular, we’d love your feedback on either side of this issue – or your own personal spin. We might be sharing our own strong opinions in this post, but we’re genuinely interested in all ways to look at this issue.

JOIN US! The Rules Committee meeting is Monday, April 8th at 10am in the Council Chambers, room 400 on the 4th floor of City Hall. Local representation most welcome, sign up here if you’d like to participate in the public comments portion of the meeting. (You’ll need to provide some basic info about yourself as well as the number of the bill they’ll be debating, #240012.) You can also let us know if you’d like us to read yours aloud when it’s our turn to address the Council.

UPDATE (April 8): 

Pictured: EFCC represents at today’s City Council rule meeting! About a dozen neighbors came out to accuse PWD of withholding information and refusing to work with neighbors. The City’s Water Commissioner and spokespeople from the project weighed in to confirm numerous meetings with the neighbors, and the PWD’s willingness to go on the record at City Hall and also sign a 10-point MOU addressing the top ten issues the community has regarding the Queen Lane Reservoir site. 

EFCC stressed they supported the Water Department’s plan for improvements but fail to see how their Community Agreement impedes its progress. Indeed, the PWD’s inability to provide a detailed Master Plan for Queen Lane at this point suggests to EFCC that they don’t really need their zoning yet — a bold statement for neighbors to make when some of the city’s top infrastructure engineers insist otherwise. 

After agreeing that the neighbors will be affected by Queen Lane’s rebuild (slated to start in 2030-ish), Curtis Jones still allowed the bill to move forward, with the requirement that city’s Legal and Planning entities take a week to look into how/if it’s possible to provide some “extra reassurance” for EF neighbors near Queen Lane.

Spoiler alert: the city zoning representative who spoke at this meeting stressed that there are no provisions that he was aware of where a community agreement is written into city zoning law. Furthermore, he stressed that correcting PWD’s zoning doesn’t end their responsibility to listen to neighbors — other processes (such as Civic Design Review) will provide additional public forums throughout the project’s development. 

Can this project move forward before City Council sessions end this June? 🤔🤔🤔 Stay tuned…. 

🙌 BONUS TRANSCRIPT: East Falls Community Council Zoning Committee Meeting on Queen Lane Reservoir (Tuesday March 5, 2024)
Speakers:
Hilary Langer, EFCC Board member at-Large
Paul Elia, member of EFCC Zoning Committee
Lawyer aka Paul Boni, specializing in land use, zoning, and preservation law
+ an assortment of Neighbors (use time stamps to see who’s speaking in video)

NOTE: Comments have been lightly edited for clarity, please send corrections to editor@nwlocalpaper.com. 🙏 (We’ve highlighted quotes mentioned above along with other parts we found noteworthy.)

***BEGIN VIDEO TRANSCRIPT***

Hilary Langer  00:00  We were informed by city planning that they were going to approve and make a recommendation to City Council that the reservoir was to be rezoned to civic. So Paul Elia and myself got on to that city planning call, and we made the case that this bill should be withheld. However, I gotta tell you city planning still went ahead and recommended the bill be passed by City Council. However, we got in touch with Josh Cohen with Councilman Jones’s office, he apologized profusely and said that was a major oversight.

He pulled the bill, because, coincidentally, two weeks before he had us review the Fall Center, which is the old MCP hospital for a zoning change. So you went through all the right channels on that one, we had a community meeting, it was approved, and with some conditions, and he just missed the reservoir for some reason. So the Water Department reached out to us, January of 2023. So more than a year ago, and we had our first meeting. We’ve had at least four meetings with the Water Department, they are posted on our website, you can read the text of the meetings, you can see the PowerPoints that they presented, and you can see the progression of information into the PowerPoints as we went through.

In a nutshell, we said we would approve the zoning change on two conditions. One is that we’re going to take all the allowable uses out of the civic use that pertain to other uses that were not related to our reservoir infrastructure. That would have been bus stations, hospitals, adult daycare centers, cell phone towers — it was a long list of about 10 to 15 other functions — uh, hospitals, research labs. So they took they took all that out of the bill, and restricted it to just reservoir infrastructure improvements.

And we also said at that time, that in granting the zoning change, we wanted an agreement. And they said well give us a list of your requirements. So we gave them a long list, over four or five pages of the different things we wanted relating to building height, setbacks, landscaping, fencing, lighting, vehicle entry, all that kind of thing. And they put those requests into a PowerPoint and actually split them up into what issues could be addressed by zoning, and what issues could be addressed by a community agreement. They actually put many of those requests into the category “community agreement.”

Also, in one of those meetings, they stated that they will be producing a master plan after we were asking them exactly what they were going to do. And he said, Well, we’re not sure exactly yet, but we’ll produce a master plan. We’ll run it by you. They’ve since withdrawn the promise of a master plan, and we’re holding them to that.

So when we got our first round of requirements turned down, we had several community meetings on the issue. And the clear message to us was that we should hire a zoning attorney to represent us because they weren’t listening to us. And we did not know as citizens how we were going to write an enforceable agreement. So Paul Boni knows how to do that. So those of you who don’t know Paul Boni, he is on the call. So this is a formal introduction.

He also assisted us in some other projects around the neighborhood, which we have successfully appealed and stopped. So I am going to hand over very shortly to Paul, after I finish this recap. What’s frustrating about this is the fact that we think we made a pretty darn good agreement. And we put it out in front of the Water Department, they refused to meet with us on this agreement, they said they would just get back to us. So we checked in every couple of weeks, how’s it going? How’s it going? And after two and a half months, they got back to our agreement. With a letter of I’m gonna say non committal, they didn’t commit to anything. And they spun a big smokescreen out there, relating to federal requirements, they couldn’t predict energy codes that they couldn’t predict.

And, you know, these things are not mysteries, they’re very prescriptive and very, very precise, that there’s nothing mystical about a federal guideline that would stop us being able to agree to something with regard to lighting or security. So, you know, we reached a level of frustration. And I want to thank Paul Boni, for helping us with our agreement, we still think it’s a good one.

Paradoxically Councilman Jones put the bill back into the legislative pipeline, even without a community agreement. So the purpose of us getting together here and creating a critical mass of support for a community agreement and master plan is that we’re going to put pressure on Councilman Jones, we want him to hold that bill, until we have an enforceable community agreement. So it’s good to see you all on the Zoom tonight. And we will all work together to get a good outcome for new water infrastructure, and a good outcome for our neighborhood that we have a rebuilt neighborhood that we can all live happily with. At that point, I will turn it over to Paul to take the skip over anything I missed and go through the crux of the PowerPoint presentation.

Paul Boni  07:31  Okay, thank you. Yeah, I can you put up the first and the agenda page or the first table of contents page?

Hilary Langer  07:58  You can see it. Yeah. So I can also have some slides on the left hand side, by the way, okay. No, we’re not going to run the PowerPoint, we’re going to go to the point where we where we need to see it.

Paul Boni  08:50  In a perfect world, this should be something easy to solve, because they want to completely renovate and overall their water plan, which is fine with us, as long as they don’t harm or negatively affect the neighborhood. And there should be ways to do that. But we’re concerned that they are, in their bureaucratic way, may not be as thoughtful and mindful about us as we want them to be. And so we want to put some parameters around what they’re trying to do in terms of noise and lighting and all the things around the perimeter that’ll affect us.

If the logical way to do it would be for them to put together a plan of what they want to do. And show it to us. We say Okay, that’s great. Change X and Y and they say, Fine, we can change that. We’d say great. Now we’re happy to support your rezoning, because you’ve told us what you want to do, and we agree with what you want to do. The problem is they’re not. They’ve told us that they don’t intend to begin their design process until 2030, or 2031.

So they can’t really tell us what they want to do. So that puts us in the predicament of saying, Well, if you can’t tell us what you want to do, then we have to talk about parameters that you can’t be asked to have landscaping, lights have to be pointed in certain directions, they can’t be a certain brightness, and blah, blah, blah. But because they haven’t really told us about them, and even if they can tell us an inkling of what they want to do, they’re in no way ready to commit to doing it, because they’re just so many years away from actually designing it in a very serious way. So we put together all of our parameters at the very end of November and sent to them, and said, Here’s all the parameters we want.

And, you know, they’ve, they’ve modified them substantially, and they also don’t make them requirements anymore, they make them sort of aspirations. Maybe you should flip through some of these slides as I’m talking. So they’re going to completely renovate the facility, they want this by right zoning, which means there’s no requirement for them to come to us. And we don’t have any leverage, like we would at the zoning board, to actually have some clout to be able to effectuate some changes or to negotiate some changes next place.

And so while we propose is a two part solution, the first is this contract is in great agreement, which for a year, they were telling us they’d be willing to enter into now it’s turning into just some sort of aspirational document. And the other thing we asked for is something that the zoning code allows in certain specified properties. Not this one yet, which is that whoever develops the property has to do it according to an official master plan that’s reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission and city council.

So those are a couple of meetings, sort of, you know, in City Hall, downtown there on Zoom and the planning commission and city council, it’s actually an ordinance that gets passed by City Council, where the master plan is reviewed and approved by these two entities. And there’s public comment, and we have some political leverage there to say we don’t like x and y and, and whatnot. And we would like this property to be put into that category in the zoning code. So that there is a master plan required. And, you know, a master plan is not like super detailed, but it’s a it’s a framework, it’s a plan. And that would give us and the city, frankly, an additional degree of oversight.

We think that those two requests are pretty modest. And we’re just looking for them to make a commitment to us with some specificity that they’re not going to harm us in the ways that we’ve mentioned. And we told them that, you know, we’re perfectly happy to negotiate all that stuff. You know, we gave them our wish list at the end of November, but we can negotiate that wish list. You know, we can compromise here and there. And if they want to put up a building that’s a little bit taller or something like that, we can talk to them about that. As long as we all know what it is.

So unfortunately, the Councilman right now, as far as we can tell, is not really being our hero, or our advocate, and not really sort of fighting for us. You know, we would like him to meet with us and hear our concerns and requests which were gonna be doing in a few days. And we would like him to flex his muscles, when it comes to getting the Water Department to give a reasonable response to what we’re asking for. He hasn’t shown that level of sort of spine yet. He might, and he’s a busy guy. And we understand all that.

But we’re trying to get higher on his list of priorities. And that’s a lot of what we’re talking to you about tonight, about how to raise our sort of political leverage with the Councilman and encourage him to be our hero. So we do have this meeting with the Councilman, he initially wanted us all in a room together, he says, Let’s get in a room, you guys and the Water Department and I, the councilman, will be the mediator.

And we said, No, we want to meet with you first alone. So that we can talk to you, you can hear us, we can hear what your thoughts are, and we can come to some sort of hopefully some sort of Alliance or a game plan. And then understanding that he would support what we’re trying to do not really be a mediator. Although we don’t want to get hung up on the word mediator, or mediation, it’s in his office, and so you know, we’re fine with that.

And then we’ve known we set up a week or so later, the meeting with us and the Water Department and the Councilman. And, you know, we’re hoping that through our efforts, and the Councilman’s efforts, the Water Department can really deliver a lot more than what they’ve currently delivered. Which is really, frankly, a lot of arrogance and bureaucracy mixed together. I don’t want to make it personal, because I don’t believe it is personal, either from anybody at the Water Department, or anybody here, I just think it’s a big bureaucracy, and they need more of an encouragement.

So we’ve done a couple things, we put a petition on the website. And we’re gonna ask all of you, and we’re trying to market it, and publicize to the entire community to sign the petition. The best way to do a petition is door to door with a real pen and paper. And so we think we may do that. But we also have the online. And we think that’s going to be a good way to do it.

Hilary Langer  17:51  Yeah, Paul, at this point, I just wanted to thank Francis and Bill, they worked really, really hard to get this added page to the East Falls Community Council website. If you go to the Community Council website, look up East Falls Community Council main page, at the top, you will see a banner. If you click the banner, the petition will come up, and you will start to see information about our efforts, lobbying Councilman Jones to be on our side. So Bill and Francis, I’m handing a big thank you out to you. And I really want to you know — it took many days of you going through this. Okay, Paul, back to you.

Paul Boni  18:49  And all these QR codes, well, it’s the same QR code, but every time you see that QR code, it will take you directly to that page. And so we’re asking you to go to that page. And there’s really two things you can do, you could sign the petition. And also at the bottom of the page, there’s just a place for your name and email that we can give you updates, email you updates on a more frequent basis.

And of course, we with the help of folks that Hillary mentioned, have created yard signs and so these are yard signs that are currently being produced. And it’s double sided. This one says is addressed to the Water Department, the flip side is addressed to Councilman Jones, slightly different message. Same QR code takes you to the same page that we’ve been talking about.

EFCC members at a rally in December 2023

And, you know, we’d like to get these distributed around the neighbor As soon as possible, certainly the homes that face the facility would be great if we could really get a lot of yard signs on those blocks. And beyond, of course. So if you have friends in the neighborhood can help us get people to put these on their lawns. That would be awesome. The landing page for this QR code, we’re going to provide updates on it, and we’re going to use that page along the way to see who needs pressure, who needs praise, who needs criticism, who needs encouragement. And so that’s hopefully going to be a dynamic page that adapts along the way.

We’re pushing as hard as we can to get their maximum protections. That’s all we can do. That’s all we can do. And it’s generally a political matter. I mean, I’ll — and where I began, which is the fundamental problem, I think, is that they’re not planning on designing this for another six years. But they want the zoning now, they want the zoning today. One could ask if that is a mismatch? Maybe they should hold off on the zoning until they have a better idea of what they want to build. And then it might be an easier process?

I think that’s a good question. And we want to see where this goes. Because right now, we’re shadowboxing a little bit, trying to put parameters around a project that we don’t really know what it looks like. So that’ll be part of our discussions with the Councilman and the Water Department. Do we have other slides. Hilary? That’s it?

Neighbor #1  22:11   I have some questions. It seems to me that a year or two ago, we got some details about exactly what the Water Department planned to do. Do we still have those details are or are we talking about some vague possibilities?

Hilary Langer  22:35  The details they spoke about were the construction of a tunnel, which is going to go from — but there were options for that route. So they are following — The detail they provided was basically on the tunnel. And the chosen option for the route of that tunnel was to go under the right-of-way on Route One So they’re gonna dig it down from each reservoir. And they’re going to put a tunnel that goes 100 feet, average, below grade. So they can empty one reservoir to the other. That is the limit of the detail they have provided.

Now what’s interesting is that on that tunnel, there are several pump booster stations. Now what’s interesting is those locations have been decided. I know where they are because they were presented in a City Planning Commission request, and it was approved. They are located in parts of Fairmount Park, kind of that are not accessible to the public. But they didn’t share that detail with us when they spoke about the tunnels.

They couldn’t tell us where the head of each end of the tunnel would be relative on each reservoir site. So it was still basically descriptive, as to what they were describing. They couldn’t tell us, are they making one big reservoir? Are they going to keep two? Are they going to make four? They couldn’t tell us. They have committed to keeping the terracotta Art Deco building with the big windows but not any other buildings on site. And they have stated they will be moving all their office function to the other side of Fox away from the reservoir.

I’m not so sure I would call that detail. That is more of a kind of overarching, just strategical kind of description.

Neighbor #1  24:56  What about the medical facility that was mentioned?

Hilary Langer  25:03  There’s no no plans, they will create offices that are staffed. That’s all.

Neighbor #1  25:12  Okay, thanks.

Raymond  25:14  Hillary, you spoke of pumping stations. Are you speaking of fresh water pumping station or sewer station?

Hilary Langer  25:22  No, it is pumping stations to keep the water moving between the reservoirs. Because they’re going to empty one reservoir whilst they’re rebuilding the other, and then they’ll pump all the water back. So that each area will be fed off one of two reservoirs.

Raymond  25:45  Okay, the reason why I asked this question, I know there’s a pumping station, right at Neill Drive. And there’s also a pumping station, right on the Boulevard. But those are sour water.

Hilary Langer  25:55  So yeah, no, this infrastructure is only drinking water. No storm, no sewer.

Paul Boni  26:13  I should mention that even the things that they’ve sort of, as we say, agreed to, they haven’t really agreed to. They told us they’d do it. Until it’s in writing, and in the bill and somehow enforceable, it’s just talk. It’s just talk. It may be good faith talk and whatnot. But we can be here 10 years from now. And all of a sudden some Water Department engineer says we should do it this way, and not that way. And bureaucracy rolls on, and we’re nowhere.

Hilary Langer  27:03  Bill, I believe you have a question?

Bill  27:13  I just wanted to add a couple of things on the petition. First of all, the easiest way to complete the petition is through the East Falls Community Council website, there’s a link right to the petition. And doing it online is fast. You can do it on your laptop or on your mobile phone. And also, you mentioned a hard copy, and I have a hard copy of the petition which I can make available to anyone who wants to run it around, the hardcopy petition. All you have to do is email me and I’ll get you the PDF file that you can print off or I can give you the hard copy if you need the hard copy.

And also when you’re filling out the petition, there is a there is a question there if you want a yard sign. You can say yes, I’d like to have a yard sign. So you can fill it in right there and we’ll know. Okay, that’s it.

Hilary Langer  28:05  Right. Thanks, Bill. Any other questions? Paul Elia, I know you’ve been very involved in this, as we’ve gotten to this point. And thank thanks so much for the core group here have been working so hard.

Paul Elia  28:30   My pleasure.

Bill 28:31  Hilary, sorry, one more quick one. Francie wanted to know when are we going to do a demonstration? And I could also volunteer to add to the petition, a question if people will be interested in participating. If we do have a public demonstration.

Hilary Langer  28:51  Thinking out loud, right now, we should have our meeting with Councilman Jones. Let’s take a temperature after that meeting, and see if we can make a prediction as to what kind of efforts we need to direct in that way.

Neighbor #2  29:13  Wow. I I haven’t been in a demonstration since 1969, down in Greensboro, North Carolina had a barber shop. Let’s do it!

Hilary Langer  29:26  Wow.

Paul Elia  29:30   It might be good to see how the meeting with Jones goes first.

Hilary Langer 29:33  Right.

Paul Boni  29:37  While we’re brainstorming, I think the more sort of activism the better. If he helps us, we can always adjust the message of the rally at the time. It doesn’t need to be critical of Jones, it can be neighborhood pride, we care about facility and how it impacts us. You know. I think, persistent activism it’s going to be helpful, I think this is going to be a process. And the more pressure we bring them there, I think, the better. We can think about it, we’ll think about it.

Raymond 30:24  I just received the newsletter from our state representative. Speaking of X amount of money that was allocated for this project. Is Curtis Jones the only avenue that we can go through?

Hilary Langer  30:39  I spoke to (State Rep) Tarik Khan on that, Raymond. And I don’t know if that was specifically for Queen Lane Reservoir. That was for generators and some electrical equipment, that sounds like it needs replacing right away. This is a 10 year project, and they’re not even really doing anything, there’s no new infrastructure there for close to 10 years. This can be failures of current equipment, most of that equipment only has a life of 20 years if you’re lucky.

Raymond 31:21  That’s only if you don’t have proper PMs on as well. My concern with this whole project is that I remember no more than 30 years ago, when they had the sewage water, when they expanded all the plants. The northeast plant was expanded, the southwest plant was expanded, and so was the southeast plant was expanded. And it took them decades to complete that project. And I could just remember some of the problems they had within a neighborhood when the construction is started, where people up the Bridesburg area who used to hang their clothes out, couldn’t even do things like that. With the amount of trucks going through, all the dust in the air, the concerns they had then.

So I mean, there are a lot of things that can go on in this area. And we need to really put our foot out there first and make sure that a lot of things don’t happen there. So I think what we’re doing is correct. And I think that a rally or some type of get together, helps promote, to let people in the neighborhood know what’s going on. And it doesn’t have to be a negative thing toward our Councilman Jones.

But we need to let people know! I mean, even if we put out leaflets, if we put little papers out, let people know about the survey, and things in that port (?). The bottom line is that the more people are informed, make sure they know what’s going on, the better we can be working as a group, I think.

Paul Elia  32:39  Well, the concern that I have, after learning about the proposed new generators, is that if they’re not handled correctly, generators can be very annoying. They have to be tested monthly, they have to run. If there’s not some kind of an attenuation package, they could be very, very noisy. We had addressed that in the agreement that Hillary and I put together. And it was just kind of disregarded. They said, we’ll comply with the sound ordinance of the city. Which in reality is nothing. And it’s totally unenforceable. So there are serious concerns.

Raymond 33:28  Yes. And also, what is the generators gonna be running on? Is it gonna be diesel fuel? Is it gonna be electric?

Hilary Langer  33:36  Well, you got a choice. It wouldn’t be electric, but it would be either diesel or natural gas.

Jim 33:51  I guess I have a question. How broad has this group reached out to the community at large, who surrounds the entire project area? Meaning, is this really been designed for outreach to people who live across the street or adjacent? Or has it been designed to reach out to the broader community who surround the water treatment facility? And let me just sort of follow through on a thought.

So from a, from a political standpoint, strikes me you want to have as broad a constituency as possible, who are going to be potentially adversely impacted by this project. We don’t even know what the project is going to be, which is the reason why they want to change the zoning now anyway, to eliminate us and others in the community at large from having input in the future.

So these projects are funded by federal dollars in one way, shape, or form. Federal dollars have an environmental justice component that you cannot otherwise adversely start impacting communities, particularly communities of color and communities of economic challenges. Strikes me that our community is much larger than just the individuals that live across the street or again the corner. It’s a broader community that may be impacted by the activities that will occur over time.

So Paul, with that in mind, have you given any thought to that aspect of trying to broaden the political base, as well as to leverage that which would be required for any kind of federal funding?

Hilary Langer  35:54  You know, Jim, I’ve driven all around the site. And I got a wonder as you drive along Abbotsford Road, there. You see the ugliest cyclone fencing. You see a giant berm continually denuded of trees. The reservoir is an eyesore along there. You look up from Route One, you see those chemical tanks that are up there. We don’t know if those chemical tanks are remaining. The only place you can see into the site — and you see chemical tanks — is from that corner of Abbottsford and Fox.

So there is most likely some injustice, I think, in that. And these emails have gone out to 1000 people in our neighborhood. And there may be some value in trying to expand to that area. And I think we should look at that. Because it’s like, yeah, we are just talking right now Queen Lane, Henry and, and Fox, three sides. We should think about the fourth side.

Google earth images for comparison. Top: Abbotsford area; Bottom: East Falls

Jim  37:39  You’re easy to marginalize, if that’s — in a number of ways, you’re easy to marginalize, if that’s going to be the constituency. If there’s a broader constituency, if there’s a broader community impact, if that impact straddles over into environmental justice issues, which are sensitive issues for federal and state and local regulators. If the fact that we’re now having we’re talking about compressors, or generators, to the extent that there’s emissions coming off of those, that creates additional air emissions in an already impacted area, because of the of the truck traffic and automobile traffic that adjoins the site and adjoins our neighborhood. And there’s increased stringent air requirements that are coming on board there.

These are the kinds of things that strike me that would resonate — and all you really want to do is, you just want to kill the zoning long enough to let the plan develop. So you have a chance to actually take a shot at seeing what a plan looks like in 20 years or 10 years or whatever. And then you have a chance to attack the plan without having zoning in place. So this is just about killing zoning in my mind. And that’s maybe one way to do it.

Neighbor #3  39:12  I would like to say that I have 40 years experience working with companies that do environmental impact statements. And if we’re talking about environmental impact statements, including bio-archaeology, and all of the rest, I have great contacts. I’ve done it for decades.

Jim  39:38   Well, first of all, thanks because I think that is — my guess is, at the near term — we don’t have to go as far as to prove up, or start to do our own environmental impact study. I think ultimately, that may be something that we would attack in 10 years or whenever the plan comes. Right now it’s just a broad enough constituency within the community at large, and showing the impact the adverse impacts to that constituency as a community at large. And not simply a bunch of folks who live across the street from a facility. And I don’t want to minimize that. I completely agree that you’re the folks on the front line, but I think it’s broader. It’s a broader issue for the community at large.

Raymond  40:26  Yes, yes, I totally agree with that analysis project or any project we have in East Falls. Hopefully, we can have a collective effort, because we show more force that way. But back to the environmental and a lot of things that companies such as what department or whoever, whenever they put things in place, they must already do these things, they must already have these environmental reports. So we can wait for them to do that, and we can pick it apart when that comes out.

But I agree with you it’s very important that the total area is aware of what’s going on, and we make sure the information is out there for them. And sometimes even though we send a lot of emails out to people, sometimes door to door, and passing out leaflets helps out as well. And I’m willing to do that if we have the leaflets, no problem at all to doing that.

Neighbor #3  41:12   I just want to make sure the Water Department knows what they need to do. I’ve worked on bio-archaeology projects for 40 years in the city of Philadelphia, where Vine Street Expressway was reconstructed. And the people who were paying for it really did not want to hear about it. But they had to ultimately pay for it. And dragged down the projects for months, generated lots of income for archaeologists, and whomever. These environmental impact statements are important. And although I am not a person who could start one, I have great connections. I’ve done it for decades. And would the Water Department, go ahead and fund one of those things for I don’t know $20,000? Who knows? I’m not sure.

Hilary Langer  42:19  We’re saving them a lot more money by agreeing to change the zoning. Because it’s like, the project gets fast tracked once they know what they’re doing. They don’t have to pay lawyers to get variances for every refusal. We’re saving them a wad of money. So you know, $20,000 for an impact study is peanuts compared to what we’re saving them with a zoning change. Yeah,

Neighbor #3 42:51  They may be looking at the impact on the environment, but there’s archaeological and cultural stuff. Who knows what’s buried under that soil? I’ve been there, done that.

Bill  43:09  There will come a time when there’ll be a PNDI study, they’ll come a time when they’ll have to look at environmental ecological impacts, there will come a time for all that. Right now, all we got to do is just kill the zoning. <laughs>

Paul Elia  43:24   I’d like to ask a more skeptical question. I have not found any information that we’ve gotten from the Water Department to be credible. I don’t believe — having worked on master plans in my career, Hilary’s worked on master plans in his career. I find it really hard to believe that they’ve been funded without putting pencil to paper and not having a plan. There is just no organization or government that is going to release that kind of funding without some planning. And I have a feeling and a deep suspicion that they’re just not giving us any information.

Bill 44:27  Have you filed a right-to-know request?

Paul Elia  44:32  Now if I knew how to do that.

Bill 44:35  So there’s two avenues. So there’s a federal component, you file a FOIA to the Feds who are gonna fund it, and you file a right-to-know to both the City, the Water Department, anybody else whose hands or fingerprints or audit. They will start to fight with you over deliberative privilege and a bunch of other nonsense as to why they are or are not going to give it up. And in the end, most of that stuff probably  — unless it goes to a direct contract — is going to be producible, under those requests. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. And you may end up in a fight, but that’s at least is one way to keep them accountable.

Hilary Langer  45:23  Good point. Yeah, on 4401 Rridge, we definitely garnered information from the city, on the right to know. So I think we should do the same here, it’s a way of keeping tabs. I had one question. Bill and Frances, when folks fill out the petition — because I see a lot of people here and I don’t know exactly where they live or their emails — does that? When you sign the petition, does it..? It goes on the petition, right?

Frances  45:24  Yep.

Bill 46:08  Some of that will not be visible. What’s visible will be the name and the email address, the address and the zip code — the zip code is required. I can set required fields, and the zip code is required. And the address, I can’t remember, but it might be required. And those things are not visible to the public. So anyone else looking at the petition can see who signed in their email address, but that’s all. But we in the background, as I set it up, I can see all that information, back it up. And that’s what we can send to Councilman Jones, with real data about people who actually live in East Falls we can sort obviously, on the zip code and so forth. Or any zip codes and x. And, you know, not have any people from Australia reporting to Curtis Jones. If I may, so that’s handled. Frances had another question.

Frances 47:08  And this comes back to asking for more information. And I know everyone has a lot on their plate. So I’m not trying to make more work for anyone. But there must have been strings attached, which comes back to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA or whatever the state and city equivalent is. There must have been strings attached, and requirements that had to be filed for them to even apply for this money. There must be, I don’t know, grant applications — what I would call grant applications or something. Nobody just gives you that kind of money without — And I guess you’d have to file the Freedom of Information Act or a FOIA to f–

Hilary Langer  47:48  Are you talking about federal money? State money?

Frances 47:52  Federal, state and the city maybe too.

Hilary Langer  47:54  OK the state money did not come with strings, it just came.

Frances 47:56  But the federal money?

Hilary Langer 47:57  The state. I don’t know if any federal money has come their way yet. I don’t know that.

Paul Boni  48:09  I don’t think they’ve received money or even applied for money for the project that we’re talking about. That’s going to be in the future. And that’s part of the infrastructure…?

Frances  49:02  Right.

Paul Boni  49:55  This is going to be a billion or more sum, you know, on the order of a billion dollars.

Frances 48:29  And they are already touting how much money they will be receiving. So —

Paul Boni  48:35  That’s fine, I’m just telling — I’m just answering that I don’t think they’ve applied for the money yet. They may have it earmarked for Philadelphia, and whatnot? But they don’t, I don’t think they have applied.

I want to just speak to this very good question and idea about who our audience is. And I want to say that it’s often for difficult community groups — being volunteers and with limited time and whatnot — to do some real community organizing. Really go door to door. Even in our own neighborhood, or our own prime areas along the streets that we’re talking about, let alone the streets that we’re just beginning to talk about.

And so if anybody does have the capacity to take a clipboard and do some door-knocking, please, please volunteer for that, and tell us that you’re willing to do that work. We’re happy to give you an information sheet and some talking points and a petition and whatever you need. But that is the stuff that’s good as gold. That’s what — it’s not just, get another name on the list. But it makes a relationship, a relationship pays off in the future. And just nothing but good comes of that. So if you’re willing, please volunteer to EFCC.

Kellie  50:17  I have a quick question. My husband usually attends these calls, so apologies if it’s a redundant question. We’re at 3241 West Queen, so obviously heavily impacted. We’re on the corner of Henry and West Queen. So it’s already very noisy., we don’t need any more noise on that corner, or any more traffic and so on. I guess my question is, what is our outreach in terms of who we’re trying to get to sign the petition?

And I know, Paul, as you had said, there’s definitely some value in going door to door and I’m very happy to play Pokemon Go with my kids, and as we’re walking, knock on doors. If I understand kind of who our targets are? Are we extending outside the streets that are surrounding the reservoir? Are we going into the community a little bit more? Posting on those East Falls pages, the neighbor pages, things like that? Or even expanding? I mean, I could posts on my social media, but then it would not be a 19129 area code that might sign that petition. So just trying to understand that a little bit better.

Paul Boni  51:26  I’d say yes, yes. And yes. I think you would probably find that one block two blocks, three blocks, yes. And then you can keep going and 10 or 15 blocks if you want, I just think by nature, the people who are closest tend to be more motivated and more bang for your buck. But keep going and see how it goes. So I sort of just go in concentric circles and just keep walking out. But absolutely, two or three blocks away. 100%, we should get those.

Kellie 51:30  Awesome.

Bill 52:01  Follow the Halloween candy around!

Kellie  52:06  Yeah, I know, I could actually just have them sign as I’m collecting Halloween right there on Midvale. So then I’m not sure who the right person would be to have someone maybe reach out with like an informational sheet? Or if you need someone to sign the petition, like where I can maybe get that printed out. And I’m happy to try to make some rounds in the next week or so.

Bill 52:31 Hello Kellie this is Bill Hoffner. I think I’d probably be the person, you know as I mentioned earlier, I do already have a hardcopy petition if you want to go walking around. I do not know your email address. I’m weh@wehofner.com. Yep,

Kellie 52:51  I did just fill out that information page that Paul put in the chat. So you should have it there now.

Bill 53:01  Great. So then I’ll make sure I get you a copy. I think you said you were 3241?

Kellie 53:07  West Queen. So literally on the corner of Henry and West Queen.

Bill  53:11   I can deliver that so long as it’s not raining. I melt in the rain.

Kellie 53:15  Yeah same. That’s great. Thank you.

Bill  53:21  If anybody else listening wants a hard copy, I can either email it or drop it off, and you can print your own. And again, you’ve got my email address, weh@wehofner.com. And I will comply with your request.

Hilary Langer  53:45  Bill. Do do we know at this point, how many people have signed a petition in I think, what, three days? Two days it’s been up?

Bill  53:54 I didn’t actually check today at all because I’ve been somewhat — I’ve been the number of other places. But yesterday there were only like three because until tonight the petition really hasn’t been publicized. So the signers are the folks who were testing it out. But it has been tested, it works. And I’m hoping a lot of people listening tonight will be filling out their petition or will walk around a hardcopy. And other folks who are block captains, I will be happy to make sure they have hard copies that they can walk around for those folks who don’t like to do things online.

Hilary Langer  54:35  I’ll put out a MailChimp blast to have people look at the petition, read it, and potentially sign it. That goes to 1000 recipients within the neighborhood.

Bill 54:48  I think we should see our numbers ramp up pretty quickly.

Kellie  54:55 And did someone say that they would post on like the East Falls Community groups? I don’t want to take credit for all the hard work that you all are doing. But I’m happy to post it. But if someone already is planning on doing it, it would be a great source, I think would be great.

Hilary Langer  55:07  Yeah, that’d be great if you go ahead and put it —  And you know what? It’s okay if more than one person posts on the two sites, East Falls Neighbors and the, It’s East Falls life thingie, Have an East Falls Life. Yeah.

Bill  55:28  Kelly you are right, this is a numbers game. The more signatures we get, the more we will have Curtis Jones’s attention.

Frances 55:39  And Kelly, if you need any information to help you with the postings, just let us know. And we’ll provide you whatever materials or background might be helpful for you to do that.

Kellie 55:52   Awesome, I’ll probably go to the website and do some copy and pasting of what you’ve already put together there with some of that background. So I’ll be armed.

Frances 56:00  I still need to add a couple more things, which is our proposal to the Water Department and also the links for the Water Department, the Water Department’s presentation, and I haven’t done that yet. But I hope to do that in the next day or so.

Kellie  56:16  Awesome.

Bill  56:18  We have, we have — well, Francis has a day job. And I just have lots of odd jobs.

Hilary Langer  56:31  Okay, so we’re doing pretty good here. Do we have any final questions?

That’s good. Well, look, everyone, really thanks for being on the call. It’s a strange day, as you know, to have a meeting. It’s not a Monday or a Wednesday. So thank you very much. Let’s look forward to some good strong neighbor collaboration. And let’s make this a good project. Because we know the neighborhood and we know what a good project looks like, because we live here. We don’t go home, because we’re already home.

Now if that sounds right, but okay. So I’m going to end the meeting and I will see you all again soon. Please go to the East Falls Community Council website for updates on the link. That is up there. Right there at the top: sign a petition. Thank you.

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