Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Bethlehem Township stormwaters leave 2,000 tons of unwanted sediment each year

Monday, April 30, 2018 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Some who attended the April 16 meeting of Bethlehem Township’s Board of Commissioners may have arrived a little late. Heavy rain that day forced Public Works to close a roadway that leads to the Municipal Building from the community college. After finally getting there, stormwater ended up being the chief topic of discussion.

Municipalities like Bethlehem Township are required to obtain permits from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection in order to discharge water from storm sewers into “water of the United States.” Bethlehem Tp has such a permit, called a NPDES permit, but it expires on October 31, 2018. To get a five-year renewal, it is going to have to present a pollution reduction plan. T and M Associates, the township’s stormwater engineer, made the presentation to commissioners

Siltation, also called sedimentation, is what impairs water quality the most in the Township. The Township’s stormwaters account for 2,035 tons of sediment every year. Even when that figure is offset by water that drains into 112 existing basins, there still are 1,881 tons every year. The state DEP wants a plan to reduce that sedimentation by 10% over the next five years. The plan is to do the following: 1) vacuum sediment from existing inlets; 2) convert old existing dry basins (10% sediment removal effectiveness) to dry extended detention basins (60% effectiveness), with priority to basin conversions that also provide flood mitigation benefits; 3) Inlet vacuuming; and 4) Perform 3.5 basin retrofits every year.

This will cost the Township $350,000 per year. Funds can be sought through the grants process, but those are expected to be very competitive. A more likely source of revenue is a stormwater fee, which can be imposed on nonprofits. T and M also suggested an ordinance that would require land developers to bear the cost, although that suggestion would require a legal review.

“Where does it come from?” asked John Gallagher. Nobody knew. “It seems like we’re treating a disease rather than preventing it,” he complained.

In other business, Commissioners granted a six-month extension for the Brodhead Road Distribution Center. It was delayed, ironically, by roadblocks encountered in obtaining a NPDES permit that is also required of developers. Attorney Blake Marles, who represents the developers, said he was only seeking this extension as an “exercise in caution.”

This project includes a pledge to finish the construction work on Brodhead Road. “That road can’t take another winter,” complained resident Barry Roth. But engineer Brian Dillman advised that the road reconstruction will begin at the end of the summer.