Most municipalities signing up for WVSA pollution reduction plan

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected] | June 16th, 2017 9:46 pm - updated: 8:19 am.

As a mid-July sign-up deadline nears, more than 30 municipalities have pending or approved ordinances relying on the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority to bring them into compliance with waterway pollution reduction requirements, authority Solicitor William Finnegan said Friday.

“We’re in really good shape. We’re hopeful that the remaining municipalities will complete the necessary paperwork to join the project before the deadline,” Finnegan said.

Property owners must pick up the tab of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to reduce the amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus washed and deposited into the Susquehanna River and other waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

Arguing a regional approach would be cheaper, the authority has developed a solution that would cost property owners in its 36-municipality coverage area an estimated $36 to $54 annually.

A list of participating municipalities to date was not available because they are at different stages in the approval process and may not have provided the latest information to the authority, Finnegan said.

An enrollment deadline was necessary because the state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring municipalities that drain water into the Susquehanna 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 Toby Creek impounding basin off Division Street in Pringle is a major component of the authority’s proposed $33 million plan, accounting for 70 percent of the 10 percent sediment reduction requirement, officials have said. Making the waterway path inside the basin more meandering and adding deep-rooted shrubs on the basin floor would reduce sediment and soak up nitrogen and phosphorus, the plans says.

This basin, which is part of the Wyoming Valley Levee system, holds water that drains from 30 square miles in the Back Mountain to prevent flooding in Pringle, Kingston and other municipalities on lower ground.

The authority is awaiting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval for the basin modifications, Finnegan said. He has stressed the plan would not reduce the basin’s flood-control capacity.

Also included in the authority’s plan are stream restoration along Solomon Creek on the east side of the river plus work at a Plymouth detention basin, Abrahams Creek near the county recreational complex in Forty Fort, and another water collection area in Hanover Township.

The project cost would be covered by a fee estimated to range from $3 to $4.50 per property per month that also must be paid by nonprofits and other entities exempt from real estate taxes. Another monthly fee of up to $1 may be proposed to fund half the cost of pollution reduction projects municipalities want to complete within their borders, including some that may also lead to flood insurance premium reductions, officials said.

The fee for each property would be based on the estimated percentage of stormwater runoff it generates, determined primarily by the amount of paved or “impervious” area that holds less water when it rains and snows.

The authority plans to complete an aerial survey this fall to identify the impervious areas in participating municipalities unless that data already is available from another government-funded flyover, Finnegan said.

Policies are under development on credits property owners can receive by completing projects that reduce stormwater leaving their parcels, he said.

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.

All credit-qualifying options will be publicly released when they are completed so property owners can determine if the fee savings would validate the cost of a project, Finnegan said.

A panel of commercial and residential property owners and others impacted by the fee also will be set up to provide feedback to the authority as plans progress.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

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