One day before flash flooding inundated southwestern Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation permitting municipalities to create stormwater authorities.
According to the environmental group PennFuture, runoff that is not managed properly can cause flooding and carry pollutants — heavy metals, sediment and nutrients — into waterways, but municipalities now have the option to create authorities to address these issues.
George Jugovic, chair of PennFuture’s law staff, said this is a big issue that people don’t usually consider.
“It’s out of sight, out of mind, right? Unless you’re downstream of all of that stormwater, and you realize that if it’s not properly managed, that it creates flooding and it creates property damage,” Jugovic said.
Jugovic said these authorities could raise funds for green infrastructure projects to allow stormwater to dissipate into the ground.
According to Jugovic multiple municipalities wanted to create stormwater authorities but thought state backing was necessary.
“Municipalities were reticent to create stormwater authorities because they were concerned that they would face legal challenges so what this legislation does is expressively authorizes municipalities throughout Pennsylvania to create authorities,” Jugovic said.
Jugovic noted Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are under a federal consent decree, and he hopes they look into forming stormwater authorities.
“They are looking at incorporating green infrastructure into their plan for managing storm water instead of building the current plan which is to build these giant expensive pipes along the rivers to carry storm waters from the various municipalities down to the ALCOSAN treatment plant,” Jugovic said.
According to Jugovic, the authorities could also provide incentives for private stormwater management that would reduce the costs to local governments and taxpayers.
“If water treatment companies have to treat the water before we drink it because of excess pollutants in the streams and rivers that’s money out of our taxpayers’ pockets that otherwise could go into the economy for another purpose, because it costs money to treat those pollutants so pollution in our streams and rivers has real impacts on us on a daily basis,” Jugovic said.