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Storm Sewer Utility

Chambersburg is unique among Pennsylvania municipalities. We are one of the first boroughs to establish and operate a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) utility. The MS4 utility operates just like all other utilities of the Borough in a separate fund to manage the infrastructure, rules, policies, local laws, and environmental responsibilities of the Borough's storm sewer system.

Storm Sewer System Manager: Andy Stottlemyer

By Local Law, a new Chambersburg Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Department was founded in 2015. It is committed to a fundamental objective to comply with the requirements of the MS4 permit, to improve water quality and groundwater recharge through education, coordination, development, maintenance, and best management practices (BMP).

The Storm Sewer Utility is dedicated to improving health, safety and welfare in the Borough of Chambersburg by providing for the safe and efficient capture and conveyance of stormwater runoff resulting from development by enforcing the Borough's Stormwater Management Ordinance, by maintaining compliance with the Borough's municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit and through construction and maintenance of the Borough's storm sewer system according to sound financial resource and capital improvements management.

The Borough owns and operates a separate system of pipes, inlets, stormwater management facilities, swales and channels. This system under State and Federal law is called a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System or MS4 and, is responsible for carrying all rainwater, runoff, ice melt, etc. through pipes and channels down to the Falling Spring Branch and the Conococheague Creek.

As complex and extensive as this is, the Borough of Chambersburg has never had a dedicated department to maintain the system or to ensure that we have funding to pay for maintenance and upgrades. Up to this point, the Borough had done whatever was possible to manage issues pertaining to our MS4. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) renewed the Borough's MS4 permit but established a stringent set of new rules for proper management of the system based on Federal law. To be in compliance with DEP, to ensure that the Borough is addressing the health of our environment, and to focus on the needs of our community in a timely, systematic and cost effective manner, we established a new MS4 Department. The department became operational in 2015 and is responsible for any and all issues directly related to stormwater management. New fee: When the 2015 Borough of Chambersburg budget was approved, the Borough had approximately 8,092 sanitary sewer connections. These customers are billed for their sanitary sewage. The 2015 budget approved a new fee using the sanitary sewer charges as a guide which appears on bills as STORM SEWER POLLUTION CONTROL FEE.

While Boroughs cannot change a fee for storm water management, this fee, in the Borough of Chambersburg, is not for storm water management, but rather is to manage pollution control through the separate storm sewer system. And sewers and sewer fees, are permitted to be levied by boroughs in Pennsylvania.

Staff believes it is reasonable to assume that any property with a sanitary sewer connection has been developed with impervious cover such as buildings, driveways and parking lots. So, whoever pays the sanitary sewer bill, is now also required to pay the Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee.

The storm sewer utility was created in January 2015 and Council authorized an initial monthly Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee of $3 per sanitary sewer connection. The fee was raised to $4 per sanitary sewer connection in 2017.  All revenue from this fee are dedicated to the storm sewer system and stormwater management. In most cases, there is one sanitary sewer connection for each developed property street address; however, there are developed properties in the Borough with multiple sanitary sewer connections. For example, a single-family dwelling has one sanitary sewer connection that would be charged $4 per month. A commercial building or shopping center may accommodate 12 separate units, each with their own sanitary sewer connection that would be charged $48 per year, for a total annual stormwater service fee of $576 for that particular building.

The Borough storm sewer system is comprised of the following:
Number of inlet structures: 2,929
Total length (feet or miles) of storm sewer pipes: 403,664 feet or 76.45 miles
Total length (feet or miles) of storm sewer open channels: 168,772 feet or 31.96 miles
Number of detention basins: 84
Number of rain gardens: 43
Number of subsurface detention areas: 127
Number of outfalls to Conococheague Creek and Falling Spring Creek: 137

Our MS4 Permit requires the Borough to operate a stormwater management program to address:

  1. 1. Public education and outreach on stormwater impacts, system rules, illicit discharges (such as blowing grass into the street) and BMP that can be installed on private property (i.e. rain gardens)
  2. 2. Public involvement and participation, such as school assemblies and public meetings
  3. 3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination through code enforcement
  4. 4. Construction site stormwater runoff control through the Franklin County Conservation District
  5. 5. Post-construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment
  6. 6. Pollution prevention and good housekeeping
  7. 7. Evaluate storm sewer system maintenance needs and establish a capital improvements plan
  8. 8. Enforce the Chambersburg Floodplain Management Ordinance
  9. 9. Evaluate areas prone to flooding and establish corrective measures; Implement the Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan

In the future, the storm sewer utility rate structure will change from a flat fee to a fee not based upon sanitary sewer connections but, based upon impervious surface of each lot.  

The Borough encompasses 4,434.99 acres with approximately 2,555.47 acres (57.62%) of pervious area and approximately 1,879.52 acres (42.38%) of impervious cover. Of the impervious cover, approximately 571.67 acres (30.42%) is covered with buildings, approximately 401.62 acres (21.36%) is covered with streets (Borough, State Routes and private) and approximately 417.11 acres (22.19%) is covered with parking lots. The remaining 489.12 acres (26.03%) is covered with items such as sidewalks, concrete slabs, swimming pools and decks that were not incorporated into the previously noted categories.  

Change Coming in January 2022 to the Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee for Non- Residential Property Owners

In 2014, Town Council in the Borough of Chambersburg adopted a plan for the creation of a new storm sewer utility, one of the first such utilities to form pursuant to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage and regulate storm water in smaller communities. This new utility would be an operating fund of the Borough similar in scope and mission to various other Borough utilities managed by staff under the authority and direction of Town Council.

A committee of citizens, businesspeople, leaders, and stakeholders was formed and they regularly met over a year to come up with an implementation plan to fund the new utility and the required work of the state permitted Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). Begun in 2015, the Storm Sewer Utility is unique in Central Pennsylvania. While the Borough has operated a storm sewer system for almost a century, available tax resources supported the system; and the plan was to establish a separate fee structure where all property owners, rather than just the 60% that pay real estate taxes, would help cover its cost of operation. In 2015, following renewal of the Borough’s Pennsylvania DEP MS4 permit, the Borough carved the system out of the General Fund and established a fee-based utility department in a separate enterprise fund.

The new utility fee began in January 2015. A Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee was added to Borough utility bills in that year. Chambersburg is unique in that it is the only municipality in Pennsylvania to operate almost all utilities. These non-profit community utilities provide water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, and trash to households and businesses. Their reliability is award winning, nationally recognized, and the rates are remarkably low. A Chambersburg utility customer with both natural gas and electric service from the Borough might save as much as $1,000 per year when compared to utility customers just outside the Borough. Furthermore, in 2022, the Borough is contemplating no increases to electric rates (second lowest residential rate in Pennsylvania) or natural gas rates (lowest residential rate in the Commonwealth).

The Borough experienced little controversy in the implementation of the Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee in 2015. Because of the good work of the citizen committee and the foresight of Town Council, the Borough has eased residents and businesses into both understanding the necessity of the fee, and the requirements of having a fully functioning storm sewer utility.

Chambersburg has dozens of miles of storm sewer pipes, channels, inlets, catch basins, ponds, etc., and they require inspection and maintenance as a part of the State permit, but also the important necessity to manage and respect storm water and its impact on the community environment. Some communities have delayed the implementation of storm sewer system management. This was never an option in Chambersburg’s large urbanized environment.

In 2022, Chambersburg Town Council will invest $2 million of Federal American Rescue Plan Act funding into necessary projects to address long-neglected capital needs in the system.

In addition to Federal funding, the Storm Sewer Utility has undergone a three-year process to change their rate structure. As originally contemplated by the 2014 study that necessitated their establishment, in 2022, the utility will switch what has been a flat rate, per sanitary sewer connection, to a rate based upon impervious area. This new methodology may result in a significant change for commercial, industrial, and institutional customers (shopping centers, schools, churches, the hospital, etc.), which may all see significant changes in their Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee based on the attributes of their impervious area on their tax parcels. The change for single-family residential customers will not be noticeable. Under the old system, only single-family residential customers were paying a fair fee. Now, every type of property will pay their fair share based upon their relationship to the impervious area of an average single-family residential home. Impervious areas are made up of surfaces that prevent the percolation of water into the ground, including buildings and paved areas on your property.

To determine your new fee the Borough digitally mapped impervious areas for every property. Then a team determined an “equivalent residential unit” or ERU value for each non-residential property. In essence, how many houses is your non-residential tax parcel (shopping centers, schools, churches, the hospital, etc.) equivalent to in comparison to the average impervious surface of a single-family home. This ERU value determines both how many homes your non residential property is equivalent to and your new monthly fee. Beginning in 2022, the new rate will be expressed in single-family home “equivalent residential units” or ERU.

Chambersburg and hundreds of other communities have adopted the ERU as the fair yardstick for allocating the cost of operating a storm sewer utility.

In January 2022, the Storm Sewer Utility envisions the ERU value being set at $5 per single- family home. Therefore, the average single family home will see no change in their Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee as the flat fee is already $5 per month. The results for commercial, industrial, and institutional customers may be much more significant; based on the size of their lot and impervious area created by the structures on the lot.

For example, if your commercial building is the equivalent of five single-family homes, your rate may increase from $5 per month to $25 per month (in this example, the tax parcel might be charged currently $5 for one sanitary sewer connection, but may become charged $5 for each of five ERU). The proposed 2022 budget contemplates this transition in January 2022. Commercial, industrial, and institutional customers should determine their ERU values now.

The utility will soon be mailing a notice to each non-single-family residential customer to inform them of their property’s ERU value as determined by the amount of impervious area on their lot. If you do not own property inside the Borough, this issue does not affect you. Furthermore, if you own a single-family home inside the Borough, you will notice no change.

It is important to note that there will be ways to reduce the amount of your new Storm Sewer Pollution Control fee. Best Management Practice facilities can be installed and maintained on your property to reduce the contribution of stormwater and pollutants to the Borough storm sewer system. You can also reduce the amount of impervious area on your property by removing buildings or parking lots that are part of the impervious area measured to establish your new Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee.

Town Council is working to prepare the commercial, industrial, and institutional utility customers for the introduction of the new Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee calculation methodology.

Single-family homeowners will see no impact as they are already paying their fair share of these expenses. This was the recommendation of the citizen committee in 2019. Town Council delayed implementation of the change to 2022 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several fliers and mailers have already been sent to every property in the Borough. Staff has also invited large non-residential property owners to focus group sessions in 2020 and 2021. Town Council needs to adopt an Ordinance in late 2021 to make these changes effective. We want to make sure that non-single-family property owners know that this change is coming soon.

Please contact Andy Stottlemyer, Storm Sewer System Manager, at 717-251-2434 or if you have any questions regarding your property's ERU value or the Borough's Storm Sewer Utility. Also, please click on the MS4 Council Presentation 7-12-21 link below to learn more about the new Storm Sewer Pollution Control Fee and Credit Program proposed for implementation in 2022.