AP NEWS

Lehman Twp. Officials Seek Waiver For Stormwater Fee

February 20, 2019

LEHMAN TWP. — Lehman Twp. officials are seeking a waiver that would keep property owners from having to pay toward a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that will charge some people based on the amount of stormwater runoff from their properties.

The township’s engineer recently filed an application for a waiver from a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit. If the application with the state Department of Environmental Protection is successful, the township will enjoy five years without a permit, after which it must reapply for an exemption.

The township submitted an application on Feb. 1, but officials don’t know when they will receive a response, said David Sutton, chairman of the board of supervisors.

A change to the status of a stream running through the township, the East Fork of Harveys Creek, is part of the basis for the waiver application.

The portion of the creek within Lehman Twp. is no longer impaired. Instead the impaired part begins in Jackson Twp. near State Correctional Institution Dallas, according to the application. The township engineer believes wastewater treatment plant discharge, rather than stormwater runoff, is causing the problem noted on a 2016 report.

Township officials acknowledge that part of the township’s urbanized area drains to the creek but believe their section does not contribute to the impairment.

Additionally, the township’s urbanized population and total population are low enough that it should qualify for a waiver, Sutton said. The urbanized population must be less than 1,000 and the total population must be less than 10,000.

Lehman Twp. was one of 32 municipalities that joined a coalition of towns seeking to meet EPA mandates to clean the Chesapeake Bay together under the guidance of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority.

The authority created a program in which it would collect a fee from property owners based on the amount of impervious surface area on their property. For most property owners with between 500 to 6,999 square feet of impervious surface, the fee was $4.80 per month.

After criticism, the authority changed the fee for properties with more than 7,000 square feet of impervious area. Those property owners now pay $4.80 per month and an additional $1.70 per month for each additional 1,000 square feet of impervious surface.

The fee upset some Lehman Twp. residents.

“Some of our residents were charged an awful lot of money,” Sutton said.

That led to the search for a way out.

If the township receives the waiver, it won’t have to meet the EPA mandate and plans to leave the sanitary authority’s program. The township’s attorney is in discussions with the authority’s attorney over the issue.

If Lehman Twp. is successful, it would join another local municipality that has also received an MS4 waiver. Warrior Run Borough received an exemption in December, said council president Larry Carbohn.

The borough undertook a study after its engineer informed officials there was a good possibility they could earn a waiver from DEP, said treasurer-secretary Tom Kneidinger.

Contact the writer: bwellock@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2051, @CVBillW