HISTORY OF THE WATERSHEDS

Did you know…?

Early History

 

Long ago, the ridges and valleys around Pittsburgh were low and shallow. Over time, erosion slowly carved into the land, resulting in the narrow hilltops and steep-sloped, narrow valleys we see around us today.

Near the Whitehall Municipal Complex, the stream bed of Streets Run is exposed bedrock (see image below). This rock ranges from 280 – 300 million years old!

Mining Effects and Other Pollutants 

While there is currently no active mining in the Saw Mill Run watershed, abandoned Pittsburgh coal seam deep mines discharge into the watershed area. Streets Run is affected by pollution from acid mine drainage (AMD). This has caused high levels of metals and, in some cases, low pH in the watershed. Like Saw Mill Run, Streets Run is affected by long-lasting harm caused by long abandoned deep and surface mines. Both types of mining have affected ground and surface water. 

In addition to pollution caused by mining operations, the streams dealt with sewage overflows for decades. 

 

A History of Flooding 

Like most urban streams, Saw Mill Run and Streets Run are plagued with frequent flooding. The narrow floodplains confined between the steep hillsides certainly don’t help! For nearly one hundred years, the continuing issues related to flooding and stormwater runoff have impeded development efforts throughout the watershed, particularily along the Route 51 corridor, as illustrated below (source: The South Hills Record, 1984).

Progress and Current Projects

Stream health has improved greatly since the early days of the mining operations. However, there is still much progress to be made. Raising citizen awareness about Saw Mill Run and Streets Run, connecting residents to the more natural areas of the streams, and increasing political will around the issues are important endeavors for us at Watersheds of South Pittsburgh.

So is developing a Green Boulevard strategy that addresses all the issues related to stormwater runoff in the Saw Mill Run Valley simultaneously. Not only will Green Boulevard projects improve water quality within the stream, but they will also enhance the quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods and communities, by providing critical green space, which reduces the incidence of flooding, and beautifying the corridor.

For more progress updates, see the “Current Projects” section here

Stay In the Know

Read about WoSPgh’s ongoing research and projects and how you can be involved.

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