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Stormwater management? Ignore at your own risk

May 28, 2015

PHB  Lancaster Brewing 1

The visit from environmental inspectors to a small town in Pennsylvania  had the nerve-rattling effect of an IRS audit, the Pocono (PA) Record reports.

Three U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffers and a pair of engineers from Colorado spent two days in Manor Township, Lancaster County, poring over page after page of government records. They spent hours eyeballing government properties, construction sites and storm drains. They grilled employees about stormwater, pollution protections and record-keeping.

It wound up being a costly exercise for township taxpayers. Manor, with an annual budget of around $5 million, paid $150,000 in legal, engineering and staff costs related to the federal orders and citations it received. That was after a specially hired attorney managed to negotiate a $175,000 fine down to about $41,000.

At issue is a review from 2010, which is among many that the EPA has launched across Pennsylvania in recent years, which observers say could foreshadow things to come in the region. The federal  government is carrying out an aggressive crackdown of regulations designed in the 1990s to protect rivers and streams from sediment and contaminants such as gasoline and pesticides.

One city in Pennsylvania is well on its way to solving the problem.

We’ve written here in the past about how the leaders of Lancaster, Pennsylvania have reacted to the EPA’s increased scrutiny by installing a permeable pavement system using StormPave genuine clay pavers by Pine Hall Brick Company.

John McGrann, owner of Penn Stone, a Pine Hall Brick Company dealer, said that the project which used permeable pavers in a restaurant’s outdoor dining patio and to build several parking spaces, makes good economic sense.   He said that the City of Lancaster is under a mandate from the EPA to either come up with a way to solve the problem, or the EPA will require the city to build a series of gray-water holding tanks, which will hold the wastewater long enough to give the treatment plant time to treat all of it before it’s discharged into the river.

PHB - Lancaster Brewing 4

“We can either spend the money or we can explore the alternatives that are out there,” says McGrann. “We can get in compliance with the EPA requirement through a strategy of green infrastructure for half the investment and create some interesting infrastructure in the process.”

McGrann says that early examples, in addition to the street project, have included the use of porous pavement, instead of solid asphalt, to build basketball courts; and a combination of porous pavement and permeable pavers to replace an alleyway.

The Lancaster example has gone well beyond Pennsylvania’s borders. It was the subject of a presentation, “Building Green Into Complete Streets,” at the American Planning Association’s national conference in Seattle last month.

The challenge, it would seem, would be to adopt best practices now to help ensure a better environment tomorrow in a way that creates interesting and effective infrastructure at a lower cost.

Or else be prepared to pay for the consequences.

The EPA’s recent visit to Pennsylvania is an indication that the bill’s coming due. Read more here.


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