EPA's Whitman, Commissioner Roy lead ground-breaking for the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center

U.S. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Philadelphia Water Commissioner Richard Roy today led the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction on an ambitious expansion of the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center (FWWIC).

Apr 26th, 2001

PHILADELPHIA, April 26, 2001 — U.S. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Philadelphia Water Commissioner Richard Roy today led the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction on an ambitious expansion of the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center (FWWIC).

Noting the observance of Earth Day last Sunday, the former New Jersey governor told a gathering of local and state officials the environmental education facility will celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year.

Dedicated to education about water and the urban environment, the FWWIC has been operated by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) since 1992 at the historic Fairmount Water Works.

Between 1992 and the end of last year, more than 100,000 students, scholars, residents and tourists have visited the center to participate in its programs. The expanded facility will be able to serve up to 100,000 visitors annually.

"We must foster the understanding that we all need to be environmentalists year round," said Commissioner Roy, host of the event. "The Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center will be a place where our relationship to the environment, especially our water resources, will be explored."

Scheduled to open on Earth Day 2002, the National Historic Landmark FWWIC will feature an Urban Watershed Exhibit, a Water Lab, a Water Wheel Replica, a Turbine Technology exhibit, a classroom, an audio-visual theater, interpretive displays, river balconies and an esplanade and a watershed technology center.

The EPA funded the center's exhibit design; the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, under the governor's "Growing Greener" program, is funding fabrication and installation of the exhibits.

Over the last eight years, the FWWIC has become a major force in watershed and water-resources education as part of the Schuylkill River Watershed Initiative, coordinated by The Conservation Fund.

Designated in the Schuylkill River Heritage Corridor Management Action Plan as a reception point, the center serves the five-county Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Berks and Schuylkill area. The FWWIC's central and highly visible location will enable it to serve the entire Delaware River Basin.

The FWWIC is perfectly positioned to take full advantage of its location, according to Ed Grusheski, PWD's general manager of public affairs, who oversees development of the center as a member of the FWWIC Advisory Committee.

"There's no question we will benefit from capital improvements made recently in the immediate area," he said.

Those improvements include the streetscape along Boat House Row; construction of Lloyd Hall; the Art Museum landscape restoration; the Schuylkill River Park project; plus the $26 million Fairmount Water Works restoration project. Together, they represent a significant investment in the most highly used corner of Fairmount Park, according to Grusheski.

"The FWWIC will focus the attention of the region on its most precious natural resource — clean water — without which we will not have a healthy environment, without which we will not have economic growth," Grusheski added.

As it was in the first half of the 19th century, the Fairmount Water Works will once again become a major destination point for visitors from across the region, the nation and around the world.

SIDEBAR

FWWIC officials salute partners, Say funds still need to be raised

Today's groundbreaking at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center (FWWIC) was the result of years of work and commitment by local, state and federal organizations.

"The FWWIC would not be possible without the many partnerships forged with the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), both in program and in fund raising," said Ed Grusheski, PWD general manager of public affairs, who oversees development of the center as a member of the FWWIC Advisory Committee.

Among those partners are the Fairmount Park Commission, the U.S. EPA, the William Penn Foundation, the Delaware River Port Authority, and the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection. Most recently, also as part of Gov. Ridge's "Growing Greener" program, the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources provided funds to build the center's entrance and stairway.

Since 1992, PWD has invested over $1 million in the operation of the FWWIC and is committed to continue annual operating support. Of the $5.4 million total goal, we now have $3.4 million and are starting construction, while actively raising the remaining $2 million from both public and private donors.

"Individual support is vital to our success in establishing the Center as a key site for eco-tourism and in training a new generation of environmental stewards for the twenty-first century," said Gail Tomlinson, FWWIC director.

Individuals, companies and organizations can get more information about the Interpretive Center, by calling Ed Grusheski at 215-685-6110. Contributions can be directed to the 501©(3) "Fund for the Water Works" with a memo on the check "for FWWIC."

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