MS4 coalition reorganizing

What formerly was known as the Lycoming County Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Coalition, or MS4, has been changing, said John Bickhart, engineering services manager for the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority.

The coalition was formed by nine municipalities and Pennsylvania College of Technology based on an Environmental Protection Agency mandate that began at the federal level in 2004 and was passed down to identifying communities that have runoff going into watersheds.

The mandate instills new regulations for storm sewer systems, or any system that collects or conveys stormwater via roads, municipal streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, man-made channels or storm drains.

The coalition included Williamsport, DuBoistown, Montoursville, South Williamsport, Penn College and Fairfield, Hepburn, Loyalsock, Lycoming and Old Lycoming townships, and was led by the county’s planning department.

Now, however, the coalition is dividing into groups that will be led by the county Water and Sewer or Williamsport Water authorities.

“The coalition is healthy … just doing some reconfiguring. The Williamsport Water Authority stepped up very diligently, and we’ve stepped up with them,” Bickhart said. “It’s efficient. It’s reasonable.”

“I think the program just grew to a point where it makes sense (to reorganize) because of the deadlines and the new, more difficult requirements,” said Wendy Walter, director of compliance, safety and security for the Williamsport Water Authority. “These types of programs are the type of work that we’re very familiar with here.”

The county authority plans to lead South Williamsport and DuBoistown through the implementation of a Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan, as the mandate requires all included entities to have one. Both municipalities were due to apply in September for MS4 permits, which last about five years before needing to be renewed, and were required to have a draft ready by the application deadline.

Though all 10 entities have the same regulations to meet, the remaining eight are on a different permit application schedule. Williamsport, Montoursville, Penn College and Fairfield, Hepburn, Loyalsock, Lycoming and Old Lycoming townships are due to reapply for permits next year and are just beginning the process of preparing their Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction plans.

Requirements for all reduction plans call for a 10-percent reduction of pollutants, namely phosphorus and nitrogen. Municipalities have worked out the amount of sediment they would need to remove in order to meet that requirement — an endeavor that is raising concerns countywide due to its costly projections.

The Williamsport Water Authority has submitted proposals for the remaining eight entities to consider, explaining ways by which the authority would help them meet regulations as well as draft and implement the reduction plan. The entities have had meetings and intend to submit questions and modifications to the authority, Hauser said. He added he doesn’t anticipate a final decision until the end of October at the earliest.

“After we answer the questions, we’ll be in a better position to understand what their approval timeline looks like,” he said.