Antrim Township supervisors are grappling with how to meet requirements to clean up the Chesapeake Bay — and ways to pay for them, including storm water management system inspection fees, a utility fee and a "rain tax."
The MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) plan for the National Pollution Discharge System was discussed at a work session Tuesday night and another workshop is planned June 5.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency cleanup mandate, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, is going to cost millions and will likely mean the township has to hire more staff.
It includes regular inspections of individual storm water management systems, such as rain gardens, amended soils, infiltration trenches, filter strips, dry wells and terraces; mapping and monitoring of water outfalls; public education; and significant steps to decrease sediment from the township that ultimately enters the Chesapeake Bay.
A sediment reduction project is required for every five-year MS4 permitting cycle, Sylvia House, code enforcement officer explained.
Brad Graham, township administrator, said that one stream bank restoration project is close to $2 million a year.
"I don't see how you are going to fund the system if you don't have a flat fee or tax," said House. She said expenses associated with MS4 are currently being paid out of the general fund and staff is at its limit trying to keep up with the paperwork, permitting and research.
House explained Chambersburg currently has a flat utility fee of $4 per property, but is spending $40,000 to $50,000 to work on a fee based on the amount of impervious area (such as blacktop which creates runoff) vs. pervious area (such as a lawn which absorbs and filters water).
House asked for some direction from supervisors, who indicated she should get an estimate for how much it will cost to calculate the township's impervious area.
In addition to Antrim Township and Chambersburg, the Borough of Greencastle and St. Thomas, Hamilton, Letterkenny, Greene and Guilford townships are currently subject to MS4 mandates.
A "rain tax" could be wrapped up in a mortgage; could be a flat millage rate or based on impervious area; and could provide a break for those who make improvements.
System inspection fees will only cover the inspection, not funding the other steps, House explained. And although the township has adopted inspection fees, they also are subject to some discussion.
There was consensus that the $625 fee should apply to a newly developed property, but a number of issues arise with properties where storm water management systems were installed since the cleanup plan was introduced in 2006.
Residents and developers have expressed concerns that making someone pay to have an inspection of an existing storm water management system on their property is not an incentive to have or maintain a system. In addition, the fee could make properties where they are located difficult to sell. Or, if the previous owner has removed the system, a new owner may have to pay to fix or install as system.