Richland officials approve pollution reduction plan
The Richland Township Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to approve the pollution reduction plan required to renew the township's five-year stormwater permit, which will go into effect in March 2018.
Under the plan, the township will spend an estimated $326,000 over five years to reduce sediment pollution in the Breakneck Creek, Crouse Run, Montour Run and West Branch Deer Creek watersheds. With the 30-day public comment period closed on Wednesday, the board voted in favor of the plan, which will be submitted to the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection in September.
Sara Knapp, who is the township's environmental compliance and sustainability coordinator, presented the final plan at Wednesday's meeting. One of the biggest questions she gets asked, she said, is why dirt is a pollutant.
“Sediment in stormwater degrades water quality for drinking water, for wildlife and for the land surrounding the waterways by accumulating in storm drains, which increases the potential for flooding,” she said. “Sediment in the stream beds disrupts the food chain and destroys the habitat for the smallest organisms. It also increases the cost to treat drinking water and can lead to odor and taste problems.”
About 30 percent of sediment comes from natural erosion, while 70 percent comes from development, Knapp said. The bulk of the projects under Richland's plan include shoring up the riverbanks to prevent further erosion, although they do plan to address restoration work at the Whitetail Ridge detention pond as well.
The pollution reduction plan is necessary to get what's known as an MS4 permit — or municipal separate storm sewer systems. All MS4 systems are part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and regulated by the federal Clean Water Act.
Township manager Dean Bastianini said the first step of forming the pollution reduction plan involved going out and inventorying all the outfalls and places where stormwater enters streams in the township, then testing for pollution. The next step was evaluating what the types and amounts of pollutants were and identifying a strategy for removing a certain percentage.
“The township is responsible for taking action to remediate and remove pollutants from the stream,” he said. “We attempt to do it as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.”
A project work schedule that will cover the next permit cycle of 2018 through 2023 will be presented and discussed at the fall road and MS4 meeting on Oct. 4 just prior to the board of supervisors meeting.
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.