October 18, 2019

For this month’s blog, I have decided to talk about stormwater fees.  As Solicitor for a number of other municipal clients, I have experienced the need of local governments to raise revenue to enable them to upgrade their stormwater infrastructure.

The reason for the stormwater fee is the requirements under the Clean Water Act and the Chesapeake Bay Initiative to require reduced organic materials and sedimentation entering the Chesapeake Bay.  This is indeed a worthwhile cause for both the federal and state government.

However, they have pushed the mandate onto local governments to solve the problem with no state or federal funding.

As you may be aware, then Governor Ridge signed the Chesapeake Bay Pact which required the participating states to lower nutrients entering the Chesapeake Bay.  In the next ten to fifteen years, Pennsylvania, along with the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, upgraded their sewage treatment facilities.  Residential and commercial ratepayers in the Susquehanna Valley Watershed all paid increased sewer rental rates because of these upgrades.  At the time, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimated the costs for these upgrades at Three-Hundred Million Dollars.  After the upgrades were implemented in various sewer plants, the cost totaled over 1.1 Billion Dollars.  All of this expense was passed down to the sewer rental rate payers throughout the Susquehanna Valley Watershed.  The ratepayers are paying increased sewage rental rates to cover the costs of debt incurred to upgrade the sewer plants.

This endeavor has been successful and the nutrients entering the bay, including phosphorous and nitrogen have been greatly reduced.  While this has been a successful effort, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency and its federal counterpart, the Department of Environmental Protection have now turned to municipalities to reduce stormwater runoff.  The concern is that stormwater runoff includes fertilizer from lawns, sedimentation from construction projects and other pollutants.  Much of the stormwater infrastructure throughout the Susquehanna River basin is outdated and often does not function well.  Moreover, the stormwater runoff is not treated before entering streams and rivers.  Therefore, the goal is to raise funds to upgrade stormwater sewers and to create detention areas to lessen stormwater entering the system.

Since the federal and state governments have not provided any funding to municipalities to implement these projects, local governments are facing another unfunded mandate.  Hence,  stormwater management fees have been enacted by various communities throughout the central Pennsylvania region.  If you have not received your bill for stormwater fees, you will be getting said bill in the very near future.   You must carefully determine if you are being properly  assessed.  Additionally, you may be able to seek credits for best management practices (BMP’s) that you have in the form of rain gardens or other detention facilities on your property. Larger commercial property owners may have constructed BMP’s, but may be unaware that they may be eligible for credits.

If you have questions about these fees, or feel that you have been charged unfairly, or inaccurately, please feel free to contact Steven P. Miner at Daley Zucker at (717) 724-9821. 

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