HANOVER TWP. — Some residents and municipal officials who likely will be hit with a new stormwater management fee attended a public comment session Thursday at the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority armed with plenty of questions.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring municipalities that drain water into the Susquehanna River to submit stormwater permit plans by September showing how they will reduce sediment by 10 percent, phosphorus by 5 percent and nitrogen by 3 percent over the next five years.
The authority is overseeing a regional project that would enable participating municipalities to comply with the mandate, and it would cost residential property owners an estimated $3 to $4.50 per month. The authority must submit its plan to the DEP in September for approval.
The DEP imposed the mandates because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring states with waterways that drain into the Chesapeake Bay to reduce pollutants that have been destroying the aquatic life of the nation’s largest estuary.
Following a progress update for municipal officials, authority Executive Director Jim Tomaine provided an overview of the plan leading into the public comment period.
Jenkins Township Supervisor Stan Rovinski asked what contributions are being made by “the people that are going to benefit as much as (us) and more than us — the commercial people in the bay, people living on the bay.”
Tomaine said they are contributing. As an example, he cited Maryland’s “flush tax” — an annual $30 fee that goes toward upgrading the state’s major sewage treatment plants.
Wilkes-Barre Township Administrator Mike Revitt asked if ponding water in stormwater catch basins would actually increase the water temperature and hurt aquatic life.
Mark Spatz, of Herbert, Rowland and Grubic Inc., the authority’s stormwater consultant, said stormwater picks up heat when flowing over impervious surfaces and would cool down in vegetated catch basins and stormwater parks.
Nanticoke resident John Telencho took issue with the roof of a person’s home being factored in as an impervious surface when determining the fee. He also asked what the penalty would be for municipalities not complying with the state mandates and property owners who don’t pay the authority’s fee, and when a finalized rate structure would be in place.
Spatz said failure to comply with a state’s special order is usually $1,000 per day, and the municipality would still be required to comply.
Authority Solicitor William Finnegan said there are several avenues available for pursuing payment from delinquent property owners, such as placing a lien on a property.
Tomaine expected a final rate structure to be in place by July 2018.
Kingston resident Brian Shiner asked if stormwater bills would be sent at the beginning of the year — the same time that sewage treatment bills are sent out. He also asked if people with septic systems in participating municipalities would be required to pay a stormwater fee.
Tomaine said the first stormwater bill would likely come out in the middle of the year, but after that, the bills might come out together. He said septic system users who don’t pay sewage treatment fees would be required to pay stormwater fees.
Adrienne Panuski, West Wyoming, asked what people who are building homes now can do to minimize their future stormwater fees.
Tomaine said installing a rain garden is one of the best methods of minimizing runoff. Spatz said the authority soon will be adding links to its website that provide this kind of information.