Upper Allen Township residents might think twice before soaping up their cars or draining swimming pools because new municipal regulations are in place to meet new regulations for storm sewer systems in the township.
On Jan. 18, the Upper Allen Township Commissioners unanimously agreed to amend a section of an existing township code for storm sewers to meet new stipulations from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“Upper Allen was notified in July 2016 by the DEP that our general permit is up for renewal in 2018 and will no longer allow discharges from de-chlorinated swimming pools and residential car washing can no longer discharge to municipal storm sewer systems,” township manager Lou Fazekas said on Thursday.
The township’s amended code now stipulates that residential car wash runoff is permitted to enter municipal storm sewers only if vehicles are washed in plain water with no added chemicals. DEP officials urge Pennsylvanians to use commercial car washes or wash vehicles “in locations where the wash water will not drain into storm sewers or surface waters,” according to a township document.
Fazekas suggested that an absorbent grassy area away from the pull of a storm sewer could serve this purpose. He said fines are in place.
Fazekas said the violators of the amended code are subject to fines of up to $500 as determined by a district magistrate. He emphasized, however, that “it’s not our intent to fine people. For the first six months to a year, our goal is to educate people.”
“Our main goal moving forward will be to educate the public about the new requirements,” Fazekas said.
Clean Water Act
According to the DEP website, the Clean Water Act prohibits anybody from discharging “pollutants” through a “point source” into a “water of the United States” unless they have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Pennsylvania General-13 permit “is intended to provide NPDES permit coverage to existing or proposed regulated small MS4s for the discharge of stormwaters … in compliance with the (federal) Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania Clean Stream Law,” according to the DEP’s website.
An MS4 is a municipal separate storm sewer, which is where Upper Allen comes into play.
To renew its NPDES PAG-13 permit for 2018, Upper Allen must submit an application to the DEP by September. The township also must meet all new DEP regulations currently in place when reapplying, Fazekas said, which is why township commissioners took action on Wednesday night.
Fazekas said that other area municipalities are subject to the same updated DEP regulations. Whether a particular municipality has enacted these regulations, however, depends on when it most recently applied for or received a current NPDES PAG-13 permit.
Fazekas said that he believed “most of the larger municipalities around here” already have the new regulations in effect.
The township also no longer allows the disposal of non-chlorinated pool water into municipal storm sewers. Previously, pool owners were allowed to dispose of pool water in storm sewers after neutralizing it by removing all levels of chlorine. This was done by shutting off a filled pool’s chlorinating system, if applicable, or to stop adding chlorine and then letting the neutralizing water sit for two weeks before draining it.
The DEP now disallows the discharge of non-chlorinated pool water into storm sewers, stating that the neutralized water still contains “a variety of pollutants,” such as nitrate-nitrogen and phosphorus. The DEP encourages pool-owners to dispose of pool water into sanitary sewer systems with permission or draining pools for on-site irrigation and infiltration at a flow rate that won’t cause stream or storm sewer infiltration.”