Lawmakers plan hearing on stormwater project costs

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com

Figuring out how to cover the costs of meeting stormwater management mandates, an issue that has dogged officials in Greencastle and Antrim Township for more than a year, will be the subject of a hearing Wednesday, June 19, in Harrisburg.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and state Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams), chairman of the House Local Government Committee, will hold a joint public hearing to explore the stormwater requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the impact on local governments.

"Officials from many Pennsylvania communities have complained that the stormwater requirements administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Program (MS4) are costly and overly burdensome to the municipalities required to implement them and the taxpayers who ultimately bear the cost," according to a news release from the lawmakers.

"Currently, 953 small, urbanized areas across the commonwealth are being forced to comply with MS4 requirements. To do so they must prohibit non-storm water discharges, have erosion and sediment controls, apply strict post-construction runoff controls from development and impose sanctions for non-compliance. These municipalities must also obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to comply," the release continues.

Both the Borough of Greencastle and Antrim Township are looking at streambank restoration projects to reduce sediment sent to the Chesapeake Bay. The cost is around $1 million for Greencastle and $2 million for Antrim Township. Both municipalities are required to complete their cleanup projects by the end of 2023.

The Borough of Greencastle is set to begin charging a stormwater management fee at the end of the month which will, in part, be used to comply with the Clean Water Act and Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements.

At public meetings, Greencastle officials have asked local residents and business owners to join them in contacting state and federal about the costs of implementing the cleanup measures.

A resolution approved by council earlier this month also asks state and federal officials to seek grant funding to help Greencastle pay for MS4 and Chesapeake Bay goals and creates a community task force to "proactively" research funds.

In Greencastle, the Greencastle-Antrim School District is facing the highest bill, around $47,000 a year. The impact fee is $5.36 per $100 square feet of impervious area and the average annual residential fee is about $43 per quarter or just over $172 a year. The majority of residential fees range from $26 to $50 a quarter. The other big residential ranges are $11 to $25 and $51 to $100 per quarter.

Antrim Township supervisors have discussed, but not acted on a fee. If a fee is implemented, it will not be until the beginning of 2020 and some township residents have asked supervisors to pay for the entire first MS4 project from township reserves.

"Hopefully the legislature will be able to have some impact on how stormwater programs are regulated and administered," Brad Graham, Antrim Township administrator, said in an email, adding, "The hope that stormwater regulations will be eliminated is not realistic."

Graham said municipalities can hope regulations are relaxed due to:

The public outcry over the unfunded mandate

How extensive the regulations are

The positive impact efforts up to this point have already had on the Chesapeake Bay

"Along with that, my greatest hope is that the regulatory agencies (DEP and EPA) would stop creating more or new guidelines, or changing the existing ones and allow the municipalities to establish their programs," Graham said. "Something needed to be done to reduce the impact that we (all of us) are having on our waterways. Unfortunately the requirements became huge and unwieldy."

The following are scheduled to testify about "their experience with the MS4 compliance process and the impact it has had on municipalities" at the hearing in Room G-50 Irvis Office Building, State Capitol Complex, Harrisburg:

  • Andrew Boni, Perry Township (Fayette County) supervisor, representing the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.
  • Mike Callahan, stormwater program manager, Derry Township Municipal Authority.
  • Mayor Sherry Capello, City of Lebanon and Robin Getz, director of public works, City of Lebanon, representing the Pennsylvania Municipal League.
  • Matt Quesenberry, Elk County commissioner, representing the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
  • Jeffrey Stonehill, borough manager/director of utilities, Borough of Chambersburg, representing the PA State Association of Boroughs.

The DEP has also been invited to testify but has not confirmed.

The hearing will be live-streamed beginning at 8:55 a.m. on Wednesday at: