Senior project addresses Aliquippa flooding
The sight of downtown Aliquippa business owners and residents cleaning loads of debris and mud left by flooding has been all too common in recent years. And with a drainage system built in the early 1900s, this isn't a problem that′s going to be easily corrected for this Beaver County community. However, some of the necessary groundwork for improving the city′s unfortunate situation has already begun, thanks to 2012 Geneva College graduates Erika Ames, Tyler Beltz and Robert Collier.
For their senior project, these three engineering students spent a great deal of their time during the 2011-12 academic year developing a stormwater mapping system of Aliquippa′s downtown area. First, they surveyed all the catch basins, grates, runoffs and curb entrances and compiled a map.
Then, the team observed and proposed possible directions of water flow on the map, before passing their work on to Aliquippa's city engineer, Gregg DelPrincipe of RAR Engineering, to make final conclusions.
"This experience provided the students valuable practical experience for when they are pursuing employment," said DelPrincipe. "And the students saved the City of Aliquippa thousands of dollars."
All told, the group invested over 180 hours over the course of two semesters on the project. But it was well worth the effort, according to Beltz, who had previous outreach experience in Aliquippa through one of Geneva′s spring break Quest mission trips-and not just because the project provided an excellent opportunity for hands-on training. "It was a great project, and we loved doing it," he said. "Because we were constantly there on the main street, a lot of citizens would come up to us and ask us what we were doing. They were really excited because the flooding there is a really big problem."
Over the years, a number of Geneva missions teams have provided service to the Aliquippa community, and these students are often hosted at the Uncommon Grounds CafÃ©, a city outreach with which Aliquippa native and Geneva philosophy professor Dr. Esther Meek is heavily involved. During the 2007 flood, this cafÃ© became the center for organizing volunteer relief. And both Uncommon Grounds CafÃ© volunteers and Geneva Quest teams continue to work at restoring the banks of streams in the area. "Through these efforts, good relationships and community have been built," according to Meek.
Following the most recent flood in August 2011, Meek approached engineering professor Robe Liljestrand to explore ways that engineering students and faculty could further help the citizens of Aliquippa. The stormwater mapping senior project resulted from that conversation.
Although a stormwater map won′t correct the problem by itself, having one is an essential part of addressing the issue. DelPrincipe explained to the engineering team that this map is a basic requirement for applying for grants and will help the city when money becomes available to proceed with work. In addition, the team's work can be built upon, and DelPrincipe hopes that future senior engineering students will continue the project.
So what does this mean for the people of Aliquippa? "As you can see, it means everything," says Meek. "How can a town attract businesses to a main street prone to flood? How can the city recover and poor people find work close to home if it cannot attract business? And it′s such a fabulous way for Geneva to help reorient Beaver County to seeing and caring for Aliquippa-and to do that in the name of the Lord who teaches us to pray, 'Thy kingdom come, on earth….' That kingdom involves infrastructure."