Philadelphia Field Station

Human Health and Safety

[photo:] Citizen peers into deteriorating, abandoned garage filled with overgrown vegetation.The Philadelphia Field Station is working with partners from the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to explore the relationship between the quality of life in and around Philadelphia and changes in green space.


Health and Safety Effects of Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in Philadelphia and other communities uses vegetation and underground infiltration facilities to manage stormwater, with the goal of reducing combined sewer overflows. Combined sewer overflows happen during heavy rain events when wastewater treatment plants are inundated with stormwater and wastewater. The increase in green space for stormwater management also has potential effects on residents’ health and safety. Michelle Kondo, Ph.D. has been working with the Urban Health Lab at the University of Pennsylvania to evaluate some of the other value-added impacts of GSI on residents.

Health Impacts of Combined Sewer Overflows

Combined Sewer Overflows present potential human health risks. Better understanding those risks can inform how management is implemented to minimize risk to human health. Michelle Kondo, Ph.D. has been developing projects around the issue of understanding and minimizing health risks, for example via exposure to pathogens, associated with combined sewer overflows.

Changes in Public Health and Crime Associated with Greening of Vacant Land

Post-industrial cities throughout the Eastern US are developing innovative programs to reuse vacant lots. Cities are increasingly combining goals of vacant land stabilization with sustainability and public health and safety initiatives; vacant lots present opportunities to promote economic development, improve health and safety, and provide ecosystem services such as stormwater management. In Philadelphia, the LandCare program (led by Pennsylvania Horticultural Society) has “cleaned and greened” over 800 vacant lots, and studies show that this has reduced certain types of crimes and improved some health metrics. Forest Service scientist Michelle Kondo, Ph.D., and postdoctoral research fellow SeungHoon Han, have been working with the Urban Health Lab at the University of Pennsylvania and numerous public agencies and organizations to evaluate vacant lot reuse programs in other cities including Newark, NJ, Detroit, MI, and Youngstown, OH.