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Environment & Energy

New Law Encourages Property Owners to Curb Storm Water Flow

Local governments across Pennsylvania have some new options to address the widespread problem of storm water runoff. 

“It’s another tool,” said Jennifer Quinn of the environmental group PennFuture.   

She said SB 1255, signed by Gov. Corbett Thursday, builds upon Act 68 of last year that allows municipalities to establish storm water authorities to address the widespread problem of runoff. 

Under this new law, the storm water authorities can offer credits to homeowners and businesses to reduce their fees by implementing storm water management best practices.

“Since we’ve paved over everything, we’ve created roofs and parking lots, water can’t enter the natural system like it used to,” Quinn said. “It doesn’t enter into our streams slowly. It runs off, it causes flooding and erosion. So these things like rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavers, they allow rain water to mimic this natural cycle and so they can slowly percolate into the groundwater, and they can slowly return to our streams and our creeks.”

According to Quinn, homeowners have many options that could reduce storm water fees.  

“For less than $100 you can install a rain barrel so that everything that’s going off your roof and your downspout is collected in the rain barrel and is slowly released," she said. "You can plant native vegetation if you have a slope towards the bottom that will act as a buffer. If you have a driveway and it needs to be replaced, instead of doing concrete or asphalt you can do permeable pavers.”

Quinn admits that only a few municipalities in Pennsylvania have taken advantage of last year’s law to form storm water authorities. 

“If we can address this problem of storm water and combined sewer overflows, it means less polluted runoff and less untreated human waste entering our steams and our lakes," said. "That means for us more and safer places to swim and fish and to boat.”

She said reducing storm water flow can ease the strain on old sewer systems that need to be replaced.

“Converting them, fixing them is going to be a huge cost, but green storm water management (green roofs, riparian buffers, rain barrels) is usually more cost effective than the traditional gray water management," Quinn said. "So if we can reduce the amount of storm water flowing into the old system, that may prevent the amount of upgrades they have to do.”