DEP regulations may result in call for Clay tax hike next year

By on February 8, 2017

While the Clay Township Supervisors were able to pass the 2017 budget without any increase in taxes, that might not be the case next year due to a hefty increase in expenses associated with complying with new MS4 regulations.

Put in place by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the regulations pertain to MS4 municipalities, or Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. About 1,000 jurisdictions in Pennsylvania are considered to be MS4.

Under these regulations, municipalities are required to control and minimize storm water runoff and its effects to decrease pollution in bodies of water.

Protecting streams, lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay from pollution is the long-term goal of these federal regulations.

To comply with the regulations, municipalities have plenty to do.

“It’s a complex set of criteria,” said Clay Township Manager Bruce Leisey.

The cost of complying with these regulations might necessitate a tax increase, Leisey said.

“It’s really fluid right now; all municipalities have to make a new MS4 permit because the current cycle ends in 2017,” Leisey said. “We’re not sure how that’s going to affect us yet, but the possibility is that we might have to raise taxes. It might have that much of an impact on us.”

The laws address concerns like stormwater runoff from new land development, which needs to be kept on-site in order to replenish ground water aquifers.

The EPA regulations also include potential penalties for non-compliance.

Bob Lynn, township engineer, noted that the township is still under contract for 2017, but he’s also concerned about future costs.

“The Chesapeake Bay is the driving force (behind the regulations) and the township has several streams,” Lynn said.

The actual cost of compliance is difficult to determine this early in the year, Leisey said. It may also be possible to obtain a grant to help pay for compliance measures, he said.

Nearer the end of 2017, the township will have a better idea of what’s expected, and therefore, a clearer picture on costs, Leisey said.

“It’s hard to determine the cost of compliance,” Leisey said. “But we do have a lot of time put into this already.”

The MS4 permits are issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection monitors compliance.

Clay Township already has a stormwater management ordinance in place to comply with current EPA standards.

“Everything up to this point that’s required, we have completed,” Leisey said.

Environmental groups, as well as township engineers, have been reading and monitoring the EPA’s new regulations that will be a part of the upcoming permit, but don’t yet know all the requirements, he said.

One of the new regulations concerns ways to decrease the amount of sediment that goes into streams, Leisey said. Measures such as wetland restoration, planting trees, and stream bank reclaiming and restoration are a few of the measures that will be used to offset erosion, he said.

“We do have some things planned regarding stream bank restoration,” Leisey said.

Some of the regulations deal with educating homeowners on steps to take to decrease water runoff and pollution, because it’s not only developers that have to abide by EPA regulations.

The township office occasionally sends mailings and other information about environmental concerns and good practice management to residents, Leisey said.

“We talk to both residents and developers,” Leisey said.

The township’s website also includes graphics and advice for homeowners from the state DEP, Leisey said.

One photo, for example, depicts a man washing his car, which is covered with soapy suds and appears to be parked in the Chesapeake Bay.

Folks are advised to wash cars in the grass or at a carwash, where the water will be treated and recycled, rather than washing cars on the street.

This information aimed at the general public includes what to do with vehicle oil, pet waste, and lawn fertilizer, too.

Fertilizer spread on lawns will be washed into storm drains and eventually find its way into lakes and streams. The fertilizer residue will cause algae to grow, which uses up oxygen that fish need to survive. The DEP website advises people to use fertilizer sparingly and follow directions.

More environmental tips can be found on the township’s website at: or call 733-9675.

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