The Challenge: In an effort to enhance the state’s Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts and control pollutants flowing into waterways, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of the Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) have gradually implemented new stormwater regulations. PA-DEP developed a program where all operators of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) must reduce pollution discharges from their MS4.
Pennsylvania is a large state, with 67 counties subdivided into 2,561 municipalities. Close to 1,000 municipalities have MS4s that will be regulated as of 2018, with various levels of permit requirements —ranging from complex mapping, investigating the sources of stream impairments, and stormwater modeling, to the design and installation of best management practices (BMPs) — all of which must be completed within a short window of time.
The Action: The Center for Watershed Protection has helped several counties and organizations in Pennsylvania to coordinate pollution reduction efforts.
In York County, the Center worked with the York County Stormwater Consortium, a coalition of 46 municipalities, to assist with regional stormwater planning. This work was initiated and funded by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to accelerate progress in meeting local and Chesapeake Bay water quality goals.
Projects ranged from stream restoration to riparian forest buffers and from basin retrofits to bioswales. The County reviewed more than 70 project plans submitted by the municipalities to determine which projects would get the most “bang for their buck.”
“Our goal was efficiency,” explains Pamela Shellenberger, Chief of Long Range Planning at the York County Planning Commission. “One of our largest hurdles was narrowing down and prioritizing the projects. We wanted to implement the ones that would reduce the most pollutants for the lowest cost.”
The Center helped determine the most efficient projects by calculating pollution reduction amounts and estimating project costs. They also provided technical expertise and concept design work around stormwater BMPs and green infrastructure.
“We couldn’t have asked for anybody better to help us with the process than the Center,” says Shellenberg. “They are very technically knowledgeable, professional and passionate. The Center’s staff helped with the small details, while simultaneously shining a light on the big picture — how all the projects will work together in the long-term.”
In Berks County, the Center teamed up with Wyomissing Creek Coalition, a municipal-based group working to meet federal and state MS4 stormwater requirements. As a cold water fishery with a naturally reproducing trout population, the Creek has a special set of TMDL requirements. The Berks County project was funded by Altria Group.
The coalition officially formed in 2012: Every municipality required to have a permit within the Wyomissing Creek watershed joined. In 2015, the Center calculated the pollutant reduction value of several stormwater management best management practices (BMPs) identified in the Northridge subwatershed of the Wyomissing Creek watershed.
“I would strongly recommend the Center to other coalitions,” says Nicholas Johnson, head of the Coalition and a Project Manager at Great Valley Consultants. “They secured a sizeable grant so that we could research our big list of BMPs and start calculating sediment and nutrient load reductions associated with the various projects. Julie from the Center drove all the way up here a few weeks ago to lend a hand with a trash cleanup day. They understand that this isn’t going to be fixed in a day, but they get things done — even literally lending a hand — to work towards a successfully restored watershed.”
The Center carried out similar work in other Pennsylvania counties, including Blair County, Lebanon County and Lancaster County. They were also contracted through the PA-DEP to help with Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) planning across the state and to provide statewide trainings on Chesapeake Bay and local TMDL compliance for the 2013-2018 permit cycle.
The Result: In York County alone, the Commission has already completed eight projects, which contributed to a total reduction of close to 135,000 pounds of pollutants in just two years. In Berks County, in the township of Cumru, the Coalition installed a rain barrel and infiltration facility to curb stormwater runoff at Pennwyn Playground, which is located right next to a creek. Eleven projects have been completed in Blair County. Best management practices are being implemented in municipalities across the state to improve water quality.