Officials update progress on fee-based plan to reduce water pollution

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Finnegan -

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is firming up increased fees and other plans to help 31 municipalities comply with a water pollution reduction mandate.

The mandate stems from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement for municipalities to reduce the quantity of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus washed and deposited into the Susquehanna River and other waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay over the next five years.

Authority officials offered to handle compliance on behalf of participating municipalities, believing a regional approach would yield efficiencies.

For example, each municipality contributed $3,000 toward a master plan that would have cost each smaller municipality an estimated $20,000 to complete individually — more for larger ones, authority Solicitor William Finnegan said Wednesday.

“As a team, we can do this more cost effectively,” he said.

The authority’s proposed solution, which has been estimated at $33 million, involves work on the Toby Creek impounding basin off Division Street in Pringle to make it more absorbent; stream bank restoration along Solomon Creek on the east side of the river; and enhancements at a Plymouth detention basin, Abrahams Creek near the county recreational complex in Forty Fort, and another water collection area in Hanover Township.

A proposed regional plan has been submitted on behalf of the 31 municipalities to the state Department of Environmental Protection for its consideration and approval, Finnegan said.

The new fee may take effect as soon as January, but the authority has not yet approved a timetable or fee amounts.

The authority had estimated the fee would be up to $4 to $5.50 per month for each residential property, and Finnegan said projections are still tracking in that range.

At this stage, the monthly fee for larger commercial properties is estimated at $1.70 for each 1,000 square foot of impervious area, such as a structure or paved parking lot, Finnegan said.

This square footage is not based on the interior space of a structure and its upper floors. Instead, the measurement will be calculated on the building footprint using aerial photography and mapping data.

Finnegan stressed all specifics will be publicly released and explained this fall, following authority approval.

The upcoming comprehensive update also will include “credit policies” that property owners can implement to reduce their bills.

One credit possibility may be a “stormwater garden” in which parking lots and other paved stretches are framed with plantings in a depression to hold runoff like a sponge. Other options may be rain barrels to collect water and green roofs.

The authority is holding off on publicly presenting these options until they are finalized so property owners don’t invest in something that may not yield credits, Finnegan said.

As planning proceeds, the authority is meeting with municipalities monthly to standardize stormwater reporting forms and procedures.

According to Finnegan, the authority also is:

• Mapping all storm drains as mandated

• Street sweeping to reduce pollutants

• Holding meetings with community and business representatives to provide a program overview

• Planning outreach for residential customers that will occur in several weeks

Fees still projected at $4 to $5.50 per month per residential property

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.