AMBLER — Ambler Borough saw distinct plans for a cleaner, greener future at council's Sept. 4 meeting.
The first set of plans came on behalf of the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), a 94-year-old nonprofit membership organization that protects and enhances Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley Park.
FOW’s presence was brought on by Ambler’s multi-year commitment to explore ways to improve the quality of the Wissahickon Creek’s capillaries, including a watershed which provides drinking water to over 350,000 people.
Ambler Borough, alongside local municipalities and wastewater treatment plants throughout Montgomery County, have joined forces with the City of Philadelphia and the FOW.
Representatives attend monthly meetings where they “hammer out an agreed-upon future direction,” FOW’s executive director, Dr. Maura McCarthy, said. “It’s incredibly complicated. Their first contest has been asking for special permission from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency to take a closer look at possible solutions.”
While drinkable, swimmable and fishable water is the end game to the coalition, wastewater treatment plants are unable to cleanse contaminated runoff from everyday suburban/urban lifestyles, officials said. Instead of sewage laterals, it’s the septic tanks, animal waste, road salts and gasoline leaks that keep the region from meeting federal requirements.
“It’s all leeching into our waterways,” McCarthy said. “Our wastewater facilities are already in compliance, but they can’t do anything about those issues. We’ve realized that there’s no way to meet the federal TMDL requirements with existing technology. Even if we had millions of dollars, we still wouldn’t be able to do it.
“We look really pretty, but we’re super developed,” she said. “That causes problems without easy fixes.”
Officials said the coalition is unlikely to have a set objective within the next year or two, but progress is being made. In the meantime, McCarthy and FOW will be attending town hall meetings throughout September to express gratitude and provide details.
“It’s hard, and it’s complicated, and it takes a really long time,” McCarthy said. “Boroughs like Ambler need to be recognized because they’re doing a really good thing.”
The second presentation, “Ready for 100% Clean Renewable Energy,” came on behalf of the Sierra Club, a nationwide grassroots environmental organization.
According to officials, Ready for 100 is a phased approach to entirely renewable electric by the year 2035 and entirely renewable heat and transportation by 2050. Its objectives include establishing policies and programs to modernize local infrastructure, beginning with research, evaluations, surveys, measurements and target-setting.
“We can learn from each other. There are 72 municipalities across the country that have realized that this is the way to go,” Bill Sabey, a Sierra Club representative, said. “Six of those 72 have already achieved their renewable energy commitment. We know it can be done.”
The approach encourages consumers to reduce overall energy use in the short-term and invest in renewable energy in the long-term.
“We as local citizens realized that we can step up and do something,” Sabey said. “If we don’t step up, we could be waiting on the federal government for years.”
“We have 6,500 people here in Ambler. We can make our little dent,” Mayor Jeanne Sorg said.