More than 350 engineers, researchers, planners and other water-resources professionals gathered on Villanova’s campus Oct. 12 and 13 for the 2022 Pennsylvania Stormwater Management Symposium. Hosted by the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP), the biennial symposium aims to promote green stormwater infrastructure to combat urban flooding and protect environmental quality.
This year’s symposium, which had a theme of “Infrastructure, Resilience, Equity,” included keynote presentations, technical sessions and moderated panel discussions, as well as almost 50 abstracts from the stormwater community, research updates from VUSP researchers and booths from vendors. Originally set to take place in 2021, the symposium – VUSP’s 12th since 1998 – was delayed a year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One thing that is special about our symposium is that it brings the stormwater engineering community together to discuss what advances have been made, and what challenges we still face as a profession,” said Rob Traver, PhD, PE, director of VUSP and a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Villanova. “You cannot underestimate the value to our research of these conversations with the engineers and regulators in the public sector in setting our future directions. Our students are also introduced to many future employers—and get introduced to their future.”
The two-day event opened with an address by the Rev. Peter Donohue, OSA, PhD, president of Villanova University, who encouraged attendees to use what they learned from the symposium to “ignite change” in their communities.
Angus Welch of U.S. EPA Region 3 delivered the keynote address on Day 1 by offering a preview of EJScreen, a digital tool used to identify environmental justice concerns across the country.
The address was followed by a keynote presentation by Angus Welch of U.S. EPA Region 3. A physical scientist in the Office of Communities, Tribes & Environmental Assessment, Welch offered a preview of EJScreen, a digital tool used by the EPA to identify and address environmental justice concerns across the country.
Another highlight from Day 1 was a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) panel discussion on “Equitable Engineering in Practice and Within Our Community.” Moderated by Mark Orebiyi ’17 CEE, ’19 MSCE, a project engineer for the Clark Water Group, the session addressed how to cultivate a diverse workforce of engineers, featuring panelists Jerome Shabazz, founder of the Overbrook Environmental Education Center; Saleem Chapman, chief resilience officer for the City of Philadelphia; and Shiny Mathew, section head for Eastern Pennsylvania water resources at Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson.
Day 2 keynote speaker Randy E. Hayman, commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department, spoke about the Green City, Clean Waters program.
Day 2 featured a keynote address by Randy E. Hayman, commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department, who spoke about Green City, Clean Waters. The program, which is aimed at reducing the stormwater volume entering Philadelphia’s sewers using green infrastructure, also helps to beautify neighborhoods, he said, while involving community residents in the process.
“It’s more than just water and wastewater,” he said. “We’re changing people’s lives, at least the perspectives of where they live and their appreciation for where they live.”
The symposium also showcased the work of Villanova Engineering graduate students, many of whom volunteered their time to assist with planning and running the event. “A huge aspect of the energy and success of the symposium was due to the 25 graduate students who led the DEI initiative, contributed their talents to the symposium organization and highlighted their innovative work through presentations and networking,” said Bridget Wadzuk, PhD, the Edward A. Daylor Chair Professor in Civil Engineering and an organizer of the symposium.
Part of the Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems, VUSP operates with a mission to advance the evolving field of sustainable stormwater management and foster the development of public and private partnerships through research. The next Stormwater Symposium, VUSP’s 13th, will be held in fall 2024.