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Regional Stormwater Plan to Save Taxpayers Money in Luzerne County

This article is an excerpt from the December 2017 issue of The Authority, a magazine produced by the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association (PMAA). It is the second in a series of 3 articles about an innovative approach to stormwater management and MS4 compliance being pioneered by 31 municipalities and the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority.  You can read the first article here: How Municipalities in the Wyoming Valley Are Cutting Stormwater Costs by Up to 90% )

 

Lower costs and increase value

Thirty-one municipalities in Luzerne County are piloting a regional approach to MS4 compliance that may revolutionize the way Pennsylvania responds to the growing challenges posed by stormwater.

They have signed cooperative agreements with the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority, which will serve as MS4 permit coordinator for the entire region. In our previous post, we discussed the many ways a regional partnership can lower the cost of stormwater management for municipalities.

In this post, we’ll discuss how:

Cooperation benefits the taxpayer.

If regional cooperation lowers the cost of stormwater management, it stands to reason those cost savings will be passed on to the taxpayer. But, make no mistake, replacing aging infrastructure and constructing Best Management Practices will cost money, and that money will have to come from somewhere.

With municipal budgets already stretched to the limit, communities may have to consider new revenue sources. That could mean a tax increase or a stormwater fee.

Stormwater fees are generally a better deal for the average constituent. This is because a fee structure ensures everyone pays their fair share.

If taxes were raised to cover the cost of stormwater management, many property owners with large amounts of impervious area would be exempt: hospitals, schools, and other non-profit institutions. However, these institutions can sometimes be the biggest contributors to a community’s stormwater issues because stormwater runoff occurs when the water runs along impervious surfaces and cannot infiltrate the ground.

If stormwater management is paid for through a property tax increase, these non-profit organizations won’t pay for the services they’re using, but someone will have to, and that burden will fall on homeowners and small businesses.

Studies show time and again that the average homeowner would pay less for stormwater management if he or she were charged a stormwater fee than if the municipality raised property taxes.

The regional cooperation being pioneered by the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is an especially good deal for local taxpayers: Our analysis showed that the average residential property owner will save 70 – 93% by paying a regional stormwater fee instead of paying an increased property tax.

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority’s estimated stormwater fee is between $3.00 and $4.50 per month. This is lower than the other stormwater fees currently being paid throughout Pennsylvania, which average between $6.50 and $8.50 per month.

By using a regional approach, WVSA is able to lower costs beyond what an individual municipal authority could likely achieve. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that the fees for most of the other municipal authorities included in the average above were calculated before taking 2018 MS4 permit requirements into account. Therefore, those communities may actually have to raise fees higher to meet the stricter requirements coming in the next permit cycle.  WVSA’s estimated cost already accounts for the 2018 permit requirements.

Municipal leaders are stewards of the public’s money, but they are also stewards of the environment. In our next post, we’ll discuss how regional cooperation on stormwater management can more effectively keep our rivers and streams clean for drinking, agriculture, and recreation.


Do you want to learn more about how stormwater fees provide the best value for taxpayers? Download our guide:

Determining If a Stormwater Utility Is Right for Your Community

Stormwater Utility GuideIt includes
• Answers to common questions about stormwater utilities
• More advice for how to build public consensus for stormwater fees
• An outline of the early steps you should take when investigating the feasibility of a stormwater utility

Download the guide

 


 

Jim Tomaine has more than 30 years of engineering experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from The Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Wilkes University. He is the executive director of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority and has been at WVSA for twenty seven years.  Prior to the WVSA, Mr. Tomaine worked in the private sector as a design engineer. He currently holds his A-1 Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators Certification in Pennsylvania and is also a registered professional engineer.

 

Adrienne Vicari is the financial services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG). In this role, she has helped the firm provide strategic financial planning and grant administration services to numerous municipal and municipal authority clients. She is also serving as project manager for several projects involving the creation of stormwater authorities or the addition of stormwater to the charter of existing authorities throughout Pennsylvania.

 

Park Boulevard Realignment and Fort Hunter Park Enhancements Honored as Premier Projects by Dauphin County

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is pleased to announce that two of our projects have been selected by Dauphin County in its annual Premier Projects award program.

Since its inception six years ago, the Dauphin County Premier Projects program has honored more than two dozen projects that promote smart growth and spark revitalization throughout the region. Among this year’s honorees, HRG provided engineering services for two of them: enhancements to Fort Hunter Park and realignment of Park Boulevard.

Park Boulevard

A broad range of local leaders from Derry Township, Dauphin County, and area businesses worked together on the realignment of Park Boulevard to support future economic development in Hershey.  The new roadway provides several safety improvements:

  • It replaces a 60-year old bridge over Spring Creek, which was structurally deficient and weight-restricted.
  • It converts a narrow roadway beneath the Norfolk-Southern underpass from two-way traffic to one-way traffic. This reduces the potential for vehicular accidents and allows for the installation of a sidewalk that is segregated from through traffic.
  • It improves emergency response time by adding a roadway connection from northbound Park Boulevard.  (Previously, first responders had to drive a circuitous route through several intersections to access this area. Now crews can reach the area 2-3 minutes faster.)
  • It provides a new shared-use sidewalk that will enhance safety for pedestrians traveling to Hershey’s attractions from downtown.
  • It adds a safe zone for people boarding and exiting buses at the Hershey Intermodal Transportation Center. This zone is physically protected from through-traffic.

Park Boulevard realignment wins Premier Project award

Front Row: Chuck Emerick, Matt Weir, John Foley, Susan Cort, Justin Engle
Back Row: Chris Brown, Patrick O’Rourke, John Payne, Brian Emberg, Tom Mehaffie, III, Matt Lena, Lauren Zumbrun

Fort Hunter Park

Fort Hunter Park seamlessly blends new amenities with environmental protection and a celebration of the area’s history and wildlife. The enhanced park includes two new boat launches that provide access to Fishing Creek and the Susquehanna River, new pedestrian paths, new seating to enjoy the scenic views, and new outdoor gathering spaces to accommodate park festivals.  It also includes expanded parking to make it easier for locals to access and enjoy these new park features.

To protect the scenic and tranquil environmental setting, engineers used innovative techniques to collect and treat stormwater like porous pavement. They also replaced two paved median areas with soil, stone and native plantings to retain and filter stormwater runoff while enhancing the appearance of the roadway. A new basin for collecting stormwater is designed to blend with the adjoining woodland edge, and herbaceous plantings and indigenous trees help to improve a local habitat area.

Signage in the enhanced habitat area describes local wildlife for park users, while other signs in the park inform visitors of past river activities such as Native American gatherings, early transportation, and coal reclamation.

Fort Hunter Park wins Premier Project award

Chad Gladfelter, Carl Dickson, John Hershey, Matt Bonanno, Steve Deck

ABOUT HRG

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is a nationally ranked design firm providing civil engineering, surveying, and environmental services. The firm was founded in Harrisburg in 1962 and has grown to employ more than 200 people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.  For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

 

HRG to Speak and Exhibit at 2017 PMAA Conference

Join us at the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association conference September 10 – 13, 2017. This year’s event is being held at the Hershey Lodge, and several HRG team members will be speaking:

 

Justin MendinskyErin ThreetJustin Mendinsky and Erin Threet will be discussing the Milton Regional Sewer Authority’s unique approach to meeting Chesapeake Bay nutrient reduction goals at its wastewater treatment plant. They’ll also be reviewing the impact of biological nutrient removal (BNR) on nitrogen levels within the Susquehanna River. (Monday September 11)

 

 

 

Tom HolleranTom Holleran will be participating in a panel discussion with representatives from Northern Blair County Regional Sewer Authority; M&T Bank; Link Computer Corporation; and the Fiore, Fedeli, Snyder & Carothers accounting firm. They’ll be discussing the discovery of a felony embezzlement at the Northern Blair County Regional Sewer Authority, specifically describing how the theft was executed.  They’ll also be offering tips authorities can use to protect themselves against embezzlement. (Monday September 11)

 

Adrienne VicariAdrienne Vicari will be talking about the innovative regional stormwater collaboration Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is forming with more than 30 municipalities in Northeastern PA. This partnership has garnered praise from DEP secretary Patrick McDonnell and is saving local municipalities millions of dollars in stormwater management costs associated with MS4 compliance. She will be joined at this presentation by Jim Tomaine of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority and William Finnegan of Pugliese, Finnegan, Shaffer & Ferentino, LLC. (Tuesday September 12)

 

Chat with Justin, Erin, Tom, and Adrienne at booth #53 and enter our raffle. Ed Ellinger, Jeff Garrigan, and Kiana Tralongo will also be there.

We look forward to seeing you!

 

HRG and Land Studies to Prepare Paxton Creek TMDL Plan

Paxton CreekHRG is partnering with LandStudies, Inc., to prepare a TMDL plan for Paxton Creek beginning in the spring of 2017.

The Paxton Creek TMDL Plan will be like a “pollution diet” for the watershed. It will outline how much sediment is in the creek now, identify potential sources of that pollution, and provide strategies for reducing sedimentation to safer levels by a specified deadline. The overall goal of the TMDL plan is to help municipalities within the watershed comply with relevant state and federal regulations while improving the health of Paxton Creek.

HRG was involved in the preparation of the Paxton Creek Watershed TMDL Strategy in December 2015 and is the retained engineer for CRW, Susquehanna Township, and Lower Paxton Township. These experiences provide HRG with historical knowledge of the pollution issues within the watershed that other firms do not have. LandStudies has the state’s first Certified Professional in Municipal Stormwater Management (CPMSM), who is well-versed in writing TMDL plans and assisting municipalities with their stormwater pollution problems.

Read the full press release on Land Studies’ website.

Van Voorhis Trailhead Featured in West Virginia Executive Magazine

Van Voorhis Trailhead in WV Executive magazineHRG’s Morgantown Office Manager Samer Petro wrote an article about our Van Voorhis Trailhead project for the Summer 2016 issue of West Virginia Executive magazine.  The article is shared here with their permission and is also available in the online edition of their magazine.

Visit the Van Voorhis Trailhead on a sunny weekend afternoon, and you will find it packed with locals of all ages. College students, families and seniors alike use the trailhead to experience nature and keep fit, and each one sees it as a valuable recreational asset in the community.

As they admire the greenery along the trail, it’s probably hard for them to imagine that the site used to be the home of a manufacturing facility with potential environmental contaminants, but just three years ago, that’s exactly what it was.

The location of the Van Voorhis Trailhead is the former site of the Quality Glass manufacturing facility, which operated there from the 1930s until the late 1980s. For years the site sat vacant, as former manufacturing facilities often do, since potential owners feared environmental liabilities associated with its previous use.

Monongalia County Commission officials recognized the site’s potential for redevelopment that could benefit the community, and they commissioned an environmental assessment to begin the process of clearing it for new construction. According to the report they commissioned, arsenic, lead and benzo(a)pyrene were among the chemicals present.

In 2012, the Monongalia County Commission used an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Cleanup Grant to remediate the site by placing a clay soil cap over the property and covering it with new top soil. They then agreed to deed restrictions that would prevent anyone from breaching the cap and potentially releasing contaminants. The deed also restricted withdrawing groundwater from the site for any purpose except monitoring and remediation.

With the remediated brownfield area cleared for redevelopment, the Monongalia County Commission began seeking an organization to redevelop the property, and the Mon River Trails Conservancy approached them with a vision of a new trailhead that would link the community to the Mon River Rail-Trail. This 48-mile trail links urban and rural communities in Marion, Monongalia and Preston counties and provides an outlet for walking, cycling, running, jogging and cross-country skiing to its inhabitants. Eight miles of the trail are paved, allowing for inline skating as an additional use.

To make the trailhead truly useful for guests, the Mon River Trails Conservancy wanted to expand parking on the site and add restroom facilities. It sounds simple enough, but due to the site’s former use and its location within a flood plain, engineers had to accommodate numerous environmental constraints. In designing the site, they needed to balance the needs to locate the restroom facility outside the flood plain and provide accessibility for those with disabilities while also siting the facilities in a way that avoided contact with contaminated material. They also had to locate the restroom facility to take advantage of the prevailing wind on site because the Mon River Trails Conservancy wanted to construct what is known as a sweet smelling toilet at the trailhead as an environmentally friendly, sustainable restroom facility. This waterless restroom technology, which was originally developed by the U.S. Forest Service, eliminates the odor typically associated with traditional outdoor restroom facilities when properly sited and vented.

The Van Voorhis Trailhead now has a parking lot that can accommodate up to 32 cars, including several handicap-accessible parking spaces; connecting pathways; landscaping; a trail map kiosk and a sweet smelling toilet facility for rail-trail users.

“This work has transformed a degraded, abandoned property into a valuable, useable site for trail access,” says Ella Belling, Mon River Trails Conservancy’s executive director. “It has not only had a positive impact on reducing public exposure to contaminants through the remediation process but has allowed for new community investments that will soon also include a canoe and kayak launch for the Upper Mon Water Trail.”

The Van Voorhis Trailhead project was designed by Morgantown-based civil engineering firm Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. and was partially funded by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program, as administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways. Other contributing partners include project contractor AllStar Ecology, LLC; the Town of Star City; the Monongalia County Commission; the North Central Brownfield Center; the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Mon River Trails Conservancy.

 

Water Resource Engineers Are Rising to New and Bigger Challenges

by Matthew Bonanno, P.E.

Flooded Street

This article was published in the Engineers’ Week supplement of the Harrisburg Patriot-News in February 2016.

Water is a precious resource, but, during extreme weather events, it can also be a deadly foe.

Without water, you could not take your morning shower, drink your coffee, use bathroom facilities, wash your clothes or water your lawn.

Yet, as crucial as water is to our survival, too much water at one time can be very dangerous: ask anyone who has been trapped in their car or in their home as water rises, like the individuals who were rescued during the massive flooding that hit Central Pennsylvania in September 2011 during Tropical Storm Lee.

Engineers work hard to ensure that communities have enough water to drink, cook, and clean, while also striving to ensure that public and private property is not threatened by water from storms or failing infrastructure, like burst pipes or deteriorating dams.

In order to keep our water clean, engineers must prevent pollutants from entering our local rivers, lakes and streams, and, in order to protect against stormwater damage, they must collect, capture and convey stormwater runoff away from homes and businesses using swales, inlets and piping. These drainage facilities must be designed to handle the sudden influx of runoff that comes with heavy storms and must be maintained in order to work properly. Many innovative drainage systems are designed to collect and infiltrate runoff back into the ground to recharge aquifers and reduce the amount of water that leaves each site.

It’s an important job: Even in the United States, hundreds of people become ill from exposure to waterborne illness each year. In 2012, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control has released a report, 431 people across the nation suffered a waterborne illness.  The United States has averaged almost $8 billion dollars in property damage and 82 deaths per year due to flooding over the past three decades, according to the National Weather Service.

But the job to protect the public has become even harder in recent years.

Rapid growth and development puts a heavy strain on our existing infrastructure. New shopping centers, schools, and hospitals bring more pavement, and pavement does not absorb rainfall like undisturbed land does.  Without proper stormwater management techniques, these impervious surfaces have the potential to increase the amount of water being directed into our stormwater pipes, which were not necessarily designed for the increased water volumes.

In addition, the increasing frequency of heavy storms in recent years (and the prediction that this heavier storm activity will continue), places even more burden on our stormwater systems. Localized flooding has become more common and more severe as the frequency and intensity of storms have increased.

Yet, as the demand on our infrastructure grows, the health of that infrastructure is in decline. A high percentage of our pipes and inlets are decades old.  With age comes deterioration, and these drainage systems may not be strong enough to withstand the water flows for which they were designed, let alone the increasing flows they carry today.

Stormwater is under heavier scrutiny today than in the past. Over the past 40 years, engineers have made great strides reducing or eliminating water pollution from industrial facilities and wastewater treatment plants.  As a result, some believe that one of the greatest causes of water pollution today is stormwater discharges, and regulators have focused their attention on reducing this threat with increased regulation, primarily through the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program.

Today’s civil and municipal engineers are responding to these new challenges as they have always done: with creative thinking. Green infrastructure (such as vegetation that remove pollutants from the water before it is collected and conveyed in our inlets and pipes) and stormwater best management practices (like porous pavement that absorbs rainfall) are tools for improved water management.  Newer funding mechanisms like stormwater authorities will help us allocate the funds needed to repair aging pipes and build new infrastructure where needed.

Porous Pavement

 

Tough jobs like this cannot be done alone, however. Community support is needed to make sure that funding is allocated and innovative approaches are accepted and implemented. Together, engineers and community members can ensure the safety and purity of our water for generations to come.


BonannoMatthew Bonanno, P.E., is the civil services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. He has 15 years of experience in stormwater management, water resources engineering, and municipal retainer services throughout Central Pennsylvania.  He can be reached at (717) 564-1121 or mbonanno@hrg-inc.com

Ohio DNR Issues New Horizontal Well Permit Requirements

silt fence

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has officially adopted new permit application requirements for horizontal well sites throughout the buckeye state. The rules adopted on July 16 will require careful project planning from an oil and gas producers’ team to minimize schedule and budget impacts on new well pad projects.

Designed in response to the rapid increase in horizontal well site construction in the Utica Shale play, these rules are designed to ensure the pad is built on a solid foundation that can handle the large scale vehicles and equipment drillers use. They’re also intended to minimize environmental impact by controlling the release of any sediment or pollution caused by construction and post-construction activities.

What is required?

Any organization proposing a new horizontal well pad after July 16, 2015, must submit a detailed application to the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. The application must include:

  • Detailed site plans sealed by a professional engineer,
  • An erosion and sediment control plan,
  • Dust control plan,
  • Geotechnical report,
  • Stormwater hydraulic report,
  • Emergency release conveyance map, and
  • Well site boundary GIS files.

After ODNR receives the application, it will review it and conduct an on-site field visit to ensure environmental compliance.

Once the application is approved, construction can begin, but the oversight process will not end there. ODNR regional engineering staff will conduct inspections of the site throughout construction to ensure compliance with the permit and approved plans. In addition, oil and gas producers will need to submit the site for certification after it is constructed before drilling can commence.

How will this impact well pad projects?

For HRG’s clients, the impact will not be significant. Though the permit application requires oil and gas producers to submit documentation that was not requested before, HRG has been performing the analysis behind this documentation all along (even before it was required by law), as part of our commitment to the highest quality plans for our clients. (Due, in part, to this effort, ODNR staff have stated that our plans are typically more thorough in design and presentation than other firms’, which helps our clients achieve faster approvals.)

Because we have ample experience meeting similar permitting requirements in neighboring states, we are very skilled at coordinating the required investigations and reporting while maintaining the tight timeframes our clients require.

Turn Environmental Risk Into Reward

env-risk-into-reward-insight

Environmental risk can present an unacceptable environmental liability that will affect your bottomline whether buying, growing or selling a business or real property. Fortunately, many states provide protection from liability after specific testing and study requirements are met. To determine how you can benefit from liability protection, the first step is recognizing the three elements of environmental risk. Understanding these elements and their impact on your investment will help turn risk into reward.

All environmental risk scenarios contain the three elements of environmental risk no matter the size or complexity of your business or property. The elements are:

1.) A source of contamination (e.g., an accidental spill, a release from a gasoline tank or home heating oil tank, a history of industrial or commercial activity, etc.)

2.) A receptor(s) (e.g., workers, customers, residents, students, patients, creeks or streams, etc.)

3.) Migration pathways (e.g., does groundwater connect a source to water supply wells or streams; can people come into direct contact with contaminated soil or dust; can a source affect indoor air quality, etc.)

Once you recognize the three elements, effectively managing the risk can be as simple as removing one or a combination of these elements. In fact, existing site features like a paved parking lot or planned site improvements like the extension of public water can effectively manage risk.

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc.’s (HRG) team of licensed professional geologists and environmental scientists work alongside clients to help them navigate the liability management process. HRG’s experts can provide one or all of the following services based on your specific needs:

  • Phase I and Phase II Environmental Due Diligence
  • Pennsylvania’s voluntary Act 2 Land Recycling Cleanup Program
  • The Storage Tank Corrective Action Program
  • State and Federal Brownfield Assessment and Remediation Grant Funding

Click here to view a PDF presentation on Environmental Risk


For more information about successfully developing sites with potential environmental liabilities, please contact Jim LaRegina.