By Warren Cohn

Stormwater challenges are rarely simple—and some end up demanding site-specific innovative solutions, as did the situation Fabco and their partners encountered when they took on the stormwater problems at Dependable Distribution Services, Inc.

This Philadelphia company is the country’s cocoa bean hub, helping provide the nation with delicious chocolate. Since 1939, Dependable Distribution has been the destination for foreign-grown cocoa beans, as well as a major storage and shipping center. The Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) Green City, Clean Waters initiative gave Dependable Distribution the opportunity to retrofit the massive complex to manage its 800,000 gallons of stormwater runoff.

Although the stormwater retrofit was successful and even had the unintended consequence of reducing historic flooding on the site, there was an ongoing problem with the permanent post-construction pre-treatment filters inside the existing catch basins. Several different products and vendors were employed to stop the cocoa bean sediment from clogging the stormwater infiltration system, while still allowing for feasible maintenance. None did the job.

Then Dependable Distribution consulted with Emerald Green Infrastructure (EGI). Kate Henry, the president of EGI, studied the stormwater problems there. “The subsurface basins were clogging badly. We were concerned that if they got worse, we wouldn’t even be able to jet the pipes clean. If it got to that, we’d have to rip up the parking lot and take out the entire existing infrastructure.” 

Kate Henry has a long history with stormwater maintenance and drainage problems. She was already familiar with Fabco’s success in this area. She contacted Fabco’s local distributor—ACF Environmental—and began addressing this complex challenge. Together, ACF, Fabco and EGI surveyed the over 30 stormwater inlets at Dependable Distribution and found a maze of mixed structures and infrastructure that is common in any industrial area around the country.  The team determined that one product solution wouldn’t be able to provide a retrofit solution to the maze of old and varied infrastructure. Instead, the team determined that they needed 13 different solutions. 

13 different product designs delivered solutions that worked with the old existing urban infrastructure. The result is a stormwater system that saved Dependable Distribution unfathomable financial costs while conforming to mandatory environmental regulations. An added benefit is that the new solutions take a great deal of pressure off the Philadelphia storm sewer system.

Some solutions were as easy as retrofitting existing inlets with standard Fabco Water Quality Inserts (WQIs). Others were more complicated and required customized WQIs specifically designed for individual inlets. For example, a StormSack BMP Round frame filter was merged with a rectangular geotextile bag square frame to fit into the existing infrastructure. In all, 31 different inlets were brought up to modern, strict environmental standards with 13 unique solutions.

To better understand exactly how Fabco, ACF and EGI implemented these ingenious ideas, scroll down to see how the work proceeded. Then think about your stormwater problems. As this example brings to life, Fabco has a solution for every configuration—including yours!

Click on gallery below to see all 12 before and after photos