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 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.
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 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," said Ed Grusheski, PWD's general manager of public affairs, who oversees development of the center as a member of the FWWIC Advisory Committee.
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.