Federal, state and local officials for the first time gathered to take on the challenge that is MS4 (Municipal Storm Sewer System), a mandated stormwater management program that is hitting Franklin County municipalities hard in the pocketbooks.
The closed-door meeting was held at the Franklin County Area Development Corp. office in Chambersburg drew officials from six municipalities and the county planning department. Local officials in attendance were from Antrim, Greene, Guilford and Washington townships and Chambersburg and Greencastle boroughs.
The meeting was aimed at attacking the impact of stormwater management regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The mandate has proven costly and has some local officials calling for relief and more plausible answers.
Friday’s roundtable, which included EPA and DEP representatives, was facilitated by U.S. Rep. John Joyce, a Republican whose district includes Franklin County. He said the MS4 regulations are negatively impacting communities and he wanted the agencies to see how stringent these regulations are and how they are financially impacting the municipal budgets.
“It was a great meeting,” Joyce said in a phone interview after the session. “We didn’t ask anyone to hold back, but we wanted to find some common-sense solutions.
“I wanted the people from the EPA and the DEP to hear how hard this is for our local communities. And there were some significant resolutions brought forward.”
Most notably, Joyce said EPA has offered to conduct workshops with DEP.
“EPA wants to sit down with DEP,” Joyce said.
“These two different government environmental agencies can work with the township supervisors and borough representatives to see how they can join together to find solutions ... whether that is working together and finding solutions as a common unit, whether that is working together asking for waivers to some of these incredibly burdensome regulations that have come out of MS4.”
Joyce said it was important to bring all players to the table and find common ground, especially because the MS4 regulations disproportionately hurt smaller communities.
“It continues to be a priority for EPA to help our partners advance their plans to improve local water quality throughout Pennsylvania,” EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio said in a news release.
“We are pleased to work with our local, state and federal stakeholders on stormwater management issues that will benefit public health and the environment.”
Joyce said Servidio opened the door for local cooperation in meeting the requirements as a way to lower costs.
“There was a spirit of collaboration and we left with an action plan,” said Joyce. “EPA has a plan to work with them. I wanted to bring that impact back home to Franklin County.”