WILKES-BARRE, July 18, 2017 — On the banks of the Susquehanna River, the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority (“WVSA”) launched an innovative regional stormwater management project that could be a springboard for other cooperative efforts between the region’s municipalities. Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon), Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) Secretary Patrick McDonnell, and representatives from more than 30 municipalities from Luzerne County announced the joint venture on the River Commons in Wilkes-Barre.
Under the plan, the WVSA will coordinate and implement a regional and comprehensive stormwater management program that will reduce pollution of the Susquehanna River and help Pennsylvania meet its obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Under existing federal law, municipalities in Northeastern Pennsylvania must curb pollution of the Susquehanna River by as much as 10% in the next five years or each community could be penalized for failure to comply with federal law. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) regulations are intended to keep harmful contaminants out of the river and minimize each community’s environmental impact upon the river and downstream communities. As the EPA targeted reductions are met, the Susquehanna River will become cleaner thereby making it safer for wildlife as well as for fisherman, kayakers, and other sportsmen to enjoy.
The WVSA will assume the lead–on behalf of member municipalities–to finance capital projects, submit all stormwater management plans and permit applications, and implement pollution control measures throughout its service area that will reduce stormwater pollution to meet the EPA’s benchmarks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, will be assisting with stormwater mapping as part of the program.
“The WVSA is well-prepared to meet this challenge and we are eager to advance this project after months of planning,” said Jim Tomaine, Executive Director of the WVSA. “Over the next five years, we will reduce pollutants contaminating the Susquehanna River, which will improve water-quality.”
By working together, the WVSA estimates that the region will save $57 million over five years and $274 million over the next two decades, in present-value dollars. Individual households will pay a nominal fee—anywhere between $3 and $4.50 monthly—to the WVSA to finance the regional effort. The WVSA estimates that households will pay between 70% and 90% less than if their municipality pursued EPA compliance on its own.
“We all have a responsibility to clean up the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay because no single municipality could meet this obligation alone,” said Senator Yudichak. “The regional stormwater project—designed to improve water quality and wildlife habitats throughout the watershed—represents the most comprehensive environmental project in northeast Pennsylvania in the last forty years.”
Senator Yudichak praised the WVSA for its leadership on this project and noted that regional cooperation is often aspired to but seldom achieved. “Today, all citizens of Luzerne County can be proud that we stand united as a region to protect the Susquehanna River and to preserve the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.