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MS4 deadlines ahead, with big pricetag

Yet another unfunded mandate — this one from the federal Environmental Protection Agency — continues to stump municipal and county officials in terms of solutions.

Both South Williamsport and DuBoistown received their renewed Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, known as MS4, permits and have had their Chesapeake Bay Pollution Reduction plans reviewed and approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection, John Bickhart, engineering services manager, reported to the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority Wednesday.

In doing so, the municipalities now have a deadline of early 2024 to prevent thousands of pounds of sediment from being discharged into the West Branch Susquehanna River.

“By Jan. 31, 2024, they’re going to have to spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece of money that they don’t have,” Bickhart said.

DuBoistown and South Williamsport both will have to develop stormwater management best management practices that can be proven to remove 10 percent of the current sediment load being discharged.

In DuBoistown, the requirement is about 15,598 pounds of sediment per year without stream restoration, or 22,763 pounds with it.

In South Williamsport, the requirement is to remove 105,072 pounds of sediment per year, yet their best management practices as established so far are anticipated to remove a total of 153,325 pounds, Bickhart said.

Other MS4 communities are Williamsport, Montoursville, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Fairfield, Hepburn, Loyalsock, Lycoming and Old Lycoming townships.

Although total costs are unknown for any municipality, DuBoistown’s reduction plan has an estimated price tag of $420,000 for design, permitting and construction, he said, adding that potential funding from any source is “questionable at the moment.”

“We know what the goal is,” Bickhart said. “How we do it … I don’t know.”

Luzerne County residents recently were hit with fees based on square footage of impervious land owned to pay for the mandate, according to reports.

Wilkes-Barre itself is in hot water, facing a $25,000 fine for non-compliance, and neighboring Kingston must dole out $12,000 for the same reason, reports show.

Yet the mandate continues to be pushed with little attention from the higher ups. An authority board member noted that MS4 was absent from Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address earlier this week.

“It’s a serious, serious, serious issue,” Bickhart said. “Is anybody listening?”

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