Luzerne County government must pay a new stormwater fee for its Wyoming Valley area buildings and parking lots in addition to meeting its own separate stormwater requirements, officials say.
Because it faces other requirements, the county will be eligible for a 40 percent stormwater fee reduction, according to the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority.
The authority imposed the fee to fund projects that bring participating municipalities in compliance with a federal pollution reduction mandate so they won’t face fines.
Municipalities in the regional program have municipal separate storm sewer system, or MS4, permits requiring them to meet specific percentage targets lowering sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus washed into the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay over the next five years.
Authority stormwater division manager Jeff Colella said the 40 percent reduction already available to the county was among credits his agency had approved for stormwater fee payers. This particular credit applies to entities that have their own non-municipal MS4 permits.
The county and state are the only non-municipal entities with their own MS4 permits in the authority’s regional coverage area, Colella said.
The county is not exempted from the stormwater fee under the regional plan because its non-municipal MS4 permit does not require completion of water retention basin modifications, rain gardens or other projects to meet the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment targets, officials said.
Stormwater bills for the county and others lumped into the commercial category were mailed last week, and county officials have not yet issued a public announcement on the amount the county has been charged.
Several county-owned properties are located in municipalities signed up for the authority’s regional plan, including the Wyoming Valley Airport and an office complex in Forty Fort, the record storage facility and 911 center in Hanover Township and the following buildings in Wilkes-Barre: the courthouse, courthouse annex, Penn Place, Bernard C. Brominski Building, county parkade, prison, voter warehouse and buildings housing human services, emergency management and engineering.
County Manager C. David Pedri has said he would seek partnerships with the authority in an attempt to eliminate the county’s payment.
County assistant engineer Lawrence Plesh said the county must meet six minimum control measures for its own MS4 permit.
The six measures along with some of the county’s proposed compliance actions, according to Plesh:
Public education and outreach
Inform the public about stormwater pollution reduction in three different ways, which may include presentations on the county website and at a public meeting.
Update the county’s stormwater ordinance to current standards by September 2022. The existing ordinance, which is posted under the county planning/zoning “stormwater management plan” section at www.luzernecounty.org, was approved by prior county commissioners in 2010.
As a side note, commissioners also had approved a stormwater management plan in 2010 that says it was supposed to be updated every five years. Plesh said he was informed no revisions were deemed necessary and that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) accepted the original plan for another five years.
Illicit discharge detection and elimination
Revise county GIS maps and develop a program to inspect and report all outfalls, which are any locations where stormwater leaves county-owned property — essentially right-of-way along roads — and flows toward a waterway.
The county also plans to meet this requirement by partnering with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to implement illicit discharge training for the general public and any county employees involved in infrastructure.
Construction site stormwater runoff control
Training all county planning/zoning and engineering staff on MS4 requirements for issuing building and land development permits.
Post-construction stormwater management
Work on developing a list of stormwater basins or water collection systems that the county is required to maintain, if any.
Update written operation and maintenance protocols and training.
For example, Plesh said the county must ensure it does not allow water polluted by grease or road salt to wash into a storm drain when it cleans its plows and other road equipment.
The county’s MS4 permit covers all county-owned properties, including roads and bridges.
Plesh said the county has submitted its compliance proposal seeking a five-year permit renewal and is awaiting DEP approval.
DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said her agency is still reviewing the information submitted by the county’s consultant, Barry Isett and Associates.
To be eligible for the 40 percent stormwater fee credit, the county must be in full compliance with its own MS4 permit and supply the authority with a copy of the permit and its annual reports, the authority’s credit policy says.
The county also may be eligible for other stormwater fee credits if it partners with the authority on projects that help the regional plan group meet sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus reductions, Colella said.
Requirements for the county’s own MS4 permit have not been publicly discussed at county council meetings, although Pedri has been briefly updating work on the compliance plan in his monthly reports under the operational services division.