A view from the street of the parking lot of Congregation Adath Jeshurun.
A stormwater improvement project at Congregation Adath Jeshurun will reduce runoff volume and improve water quality.

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership gains $260,000 stormwater grant 
The project will help reduce runoff volume and prevent floods at a Leech’s Run tributary

| February 15, 2023

Leech’s Run, a tributary of Tookany Creek, flows past the eastern edge of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, in Montgomery County, Pa. 

Stormwater runoff is a matter of serious concern for the tributary and its surrounding community as it can carry pollutants into the water, cause flooding and erode the banks and streambed.

The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership was recently awarded a  $260,788 grant to retrofit the Congregation Adath Jeshurun property to improve stormwater management. 

“This work really fits our mission of connecting people to their creeks and improving the watershed,” said Julie Slavet, the executive director of the partnership.

Stormwater management is a matter of national concern. The problems it poses for Leech’s Run are similar to those posed at other water bodies. 

Congress addressed the issue in the Infrastructure and Investment in Jobs Act of 2021, allotting $3 million to establish three to five Centers of Excellence for Stormwater Infrastructure Technologies. 

Government agencies, like the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, have also taken steps to address the problem.

The funding for the stormwater retrofit project at Congregation Adath Jeshurun will come from the DEP’s Growing Greener Grant. The partnership was among 10 grant recipients in Southeast Pennsylvania.

The partnership has worked with other faith-based institutions to mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff on Leech’s Run before, at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, just up the road from Congregation Adath Jeshurun. 

Slavet said the partnership was approached by representatives of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, who had heard about the stormwater management project at the neighboring synagogue and were interested in replicating the project on their own property. 

“These are institutions that have a commitment to social justice,” Slavet said. “They’re proud of their commitment to help conserve the earth.”

After Congregation Adath Jeshurun contacted them, Susan Harris, partnership project manager and principal owner of Cerulean Environmental, an environmental consulting business, looked to the Growing Greener Grant for funding.

“Growing Greener is one of our staple programs that contributes to this work,” Harris said. “To date, we’ve raised approximately $3 million for these projects in the headwaters of the Tookany from the grant.”

The project at Congregation Adath Jeshurun will reduce runoff volume, improve water quality and help with future flood prevention at the Leech’s Run tributary. The partnership aims to accomplish these goals by adding subsurface storage and a rain garden to the site, as well as a bioretention parking island. It also plans to reduce the measure of impervious surfaces, like asphalt, on the property.

Thomas Halliwell, principal of Grist Engineering, another consultant on the project, emphasized the importance of preventing sediments carried by stormwater from entering the tributary.

“All these sediments carry pollutants with them, like metals, and too much nitrogen and phosphorus, so if you can intercept that volume, you’ll do a lot for water quality,” Halliwell said.

The modifications will be made in the vicinity of the parking lot, but Harris estimates that only three or four parking spots may be lost. 

Rav Shai Cherry, rabbi of the congregation, said the project will help reduce the infiltration of water into the lower level of the building, eliminating the potential for mold and structural damage. 

“Managing the volume of stormwater from our property will reduce erosion along Leech’s Run and contribute to the overall health of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed,” the rabbi said.

Slavet and Harris emphasized the importance of building trust and relationships with their community through their work so that they can continue to conserve the Tookany/Tacony Frankford-Watershed.

“It’s not about doing a project and walking away,” Harris said. “It’s about maintaining a long-term relationship and helping them with environmental solutions on the property.” 

Octavia Feliciano

Octavia Feliciano

Octavia Feliciano is a journalist and recent graduate of The College of New Jersey, where she obtained a B.A. in journalism with a minor in biology. She was previously the director of operations for The Signal, The College of New Jersey‘s student-produced, weekly news organization, and has written for its international and features sections.

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