News

DEP regulations cost municipalities millions

Written by John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News | Mar 2, 2017 12:29 PM
map_chesapeake_bay_watershed.jpg

Water from about 50 percent of Pennsylvania's land mass drains into the Chesapeake Bay. (Photo: dep.pa.gov)

Chesapeake Bay cleanup puts burden on municipalities

(Lebanon) -- Department of Environmental Protection regulations designed to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay will cost Lebanon property owners $1.7 million over the next five years.

Other county municipalities are experiencing similar impacts from DEP's regulations which are a condition of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay plan. Started four decades ago to restore the bay, the plan calls for states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment from the tributaries that flow into it.

Pennsylvania is a key part of EPA's plan because it makes up 35 percent of the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed, with the Susquehanna River providing half of the total freshwater flow into the bay, according to the DEP website, pa.dep.gov.

To mitigate costs and make compliance with DEP'S regulations easier, Lebanon City Council on Monday night voted to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with a handful of its neighboring municipalities to create the Lebanon Area Regional Pollutant Reduction Plan. Council had discussed the possibility at its January meeting.

All municipalities with sewer systems must develop a plan by September in order for their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permits to be renewed by DEP for another five years. Failure to comply could result in fines and other sanctions.

Lebanon and other municipalities are struggling to meet the demands of DEP stormwater regulations.

The pollutant reduction plans must include projects that will meet DEP's requirement of reducing erosion and sediment flow by 10 percent in the next five years. A component of meeting EPA's ultimate goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

The idea of taking a regional approach was discussed at a January meeting in North Lebanon Township in which representatives from all municipalities were invited.

Most opted out early, including Jackson Township, which elected to develop its own five-year pollution reduction plan at an estimated annual cost of $180,000. Others, like Richland Borough, have received or are anticipating receiving waivers because of factors that reduce their environmental impact on local waterways.

After the meeting, Lebanon and seven other municipalities agreed to develop a draft plan to determine the cost to each if they were to join forces.

That plan included erosion and sediment reduction projects in those municipalities totaling $5 million over the next five years. The cost for each of the eight municipalities was determined using a formula that included their population, total acreage, impervious acreage and miles of impaired streams.

With a population of nearly 25,000, Lebanon's share of the cost was the largest, representing about one-third of the $5 million total. That translates to $1.7 million or $340,000 a year in the next five years.

To pay for it, Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello said she is considering instituting a Stormwater Impact Fee that would be assessed to all property owners, including non-profits and churches. Details must be worked out, but the fee would be based on the amount of pavement and other impervious land on a property. On average, it would cost $100, the mayor said.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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