State College

Ferguson Township passes stormwater ordinance

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Polluted stormwater runoff is one of the greatest threats to clean water in the nation, according to the EPA. EPA-New England launched the “Soak up the Rain” outreach program to raise public awareness about these threats, and help communities unde

A long-discussed township stormwater ordinance was approved Monday evening, but is also slated to head back to the drawing board pending further discussions.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the revised stormwater ordinance after revisions to the ordinance were placed on hold in January when supervisors decided more discussion was needed. Supervisors agreed to advertise the ordinance for adoption in May.

During Monday’s public hearing for the ordinance, residents voiced their concern for a section of the ordinance restricting infiltration basins to no less than 50 feet from any critical geological features. The ordinance originally recommended a distance of 25 feet, but Vice Chairman Peter Buckland proposed an amendment increasing the distance to 50 feet.

Longtime water protection proponent Kelli Hoover noted that when the ordinance was discussed by members of the development community, State College Borough Water Authority and township staff, very few of the water authority’s requests were added to the ordinance. She asked that the board consider increasing the 50-foot distance to the water authority-recommended distance of 200 feet.

“We need to be sure we’re doing what is safe,” Hoover said. “There are some areas where that 200 feet would be necessary.”

Resident Pam Steckler echoed Hoover’s comments, asking that the 200 feet be added as well.

We should err on the side of safety and err on the side of caution.

Resident Pam Steckler

“We should err on the side of safety and err on the side of caution,” Steckler said. “To me, it makes the most sense to protect our water as much as we can.”

Chairman Steve Miller explained that the distance of 25 feet was originally proposed by the SCBWA, later increased by Buckland. He agreed that 200 feet had been stated in prior discussions, but 25 feet was what was added to the ordinance.

We’re not talking about an ordinance that applies to one piece of land, but rather applies to a majority of the township.

Chairman Steve Miller

“The zone 2 well head protection ordinance makes up about 60 percent of the township,” Miller said, “and includes almost all of the growth boundary. We’re not talking about an ordinance that applies to one piece of land, but rather applies to a majority of the township.”

Buckland said he shared the residents’ concerns, saying 50 feet versus 200 feet represented a perception of risk.

“When you have something as difficult to understand as karst geology, I think some of us want more precaution than others,” Buckland said.

Supervisor Laura Dininni said she supported passing the ordinance and recommended immediately amending it to increase the 50-foot distance. She added that blasting should be restricted as well, as the township has unique topography and is also the municipality responsible for the water in the region.

Adoption of the ordinance passed unanimously. A motion to add amending the ordinance to a future meeting passed 4-1, with Miller voting against.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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