In the early 2000s, the governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia jointly determined that efforts to reduce pollutants and sediment from entering the Chesapeake Bay should be increased. Their discussions eventually led to the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, which requires meeting pollutant reduction goals by 2025. During that same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in the midst of developing the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program. The MS4 Program aims to reduce pollutants from entering streams and waterways throughout Pennsylvania and other states that flow to the Chesapeake Bay. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PA DEP) MS4 Program administers the stormwater requirements of the EPA MS4 Program as part of the federal Clean Water Act. PA DEP developed and issued General Permits for use by MS4s that fall under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II Program, requiring the implementation of a stormwater management (SWM) program to reduce impacts from runoff. The NPDES permit is used to regulate stormwater discharges from municipalities with MS4s located in designated urbanized areas, based on U.S. census data. In 2002, it was determined that South Hanover Township met the criteria for an MS4 municipality and the Township applied for and was subsequently issued an NPDES permit under the MS4 Program. That Program requires the Township to develop, implement, and enforce their own SWM program to reduce stormwater pollution and improve local water quality. Updates to the MS4 Program require municipalities like South Hanover Township to develop a Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan that identifies baseline conditions and offers a series of action steps to reduce sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen from MS4 discharges into local waterways, which are tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.

The information contained herein serves to foster public awareness of South Hanover Township’s SWM program, including implementation of MS4 under the NPDES Phase II SWM program.

Purpose of South Hanover Township’s SWM Program

South Hanover Township’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) collects and manages runoff through SWM facilities including, but not limited to, inlets, pipes, swales, roadside gutters, and catch basins. This series of facilities collect, convey, and discharge stormwater directly into our local creeks and streams. Much of this runoff is ultimately discharged at various identified outfall locations to surface waters including Beaver Creek, Kellock Run, and Swatara Creek. Therefore, stormwater runoff directly impacts the health and quality of these surface and downstream waters.

Why is SWM Important?

Stormwater runoff—water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground—affects our water quality and quantity, and increases flooding and erosion. Erosion leads to decreased groundwater infiltration necessary for absorbing rainfall and irrigation. Stormwater runoff also collects pollutants and trash, carrying them into South Hanover Township’s storm systems and into our local waterways, ultimately reaching the Chesapeake Bay. Runoff can flow across sidewalks and driveways, from rooftops and spouting, and down sloped lawns. As it flows, it picks up debris—grass clippings, litter, animal waste, pesticides, and other pollutants. Because runoff contains pollutants from various sources, controlling stormwater is challenging.

Stormwater can also be an issue closer to home. It can flow down an inadequately sealed or unused well that has not been properly decommissioned, thereby contaminating the drinking water supply.

What Can You Do?

Much of the responsibility for managing stormwater falls on municipalities throughout the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. While Pennsylvania and those surrounding states are making progress, there is still a lot of ground to cover to attain compliance. South Hanover Township’s MS4 program is designed to update our current program and minimize the impacts of stormwater runoff, and ultimately protect and improve our water quality. You can also play a vital role in helping to significantly reduce stormwater runoff from your property. By making small changes, you can greatly improve water quality and groundwater absorption in our community. Together, we can minimize—and in some instances prevent—stormwater runoff and water pollution, keeping our drinking water safe and our community beautiful. If you are interested in working with the Township to increase public awareness or involvement, please contact the Township’s MS4 Coordinator.

Some best practices that homeowners can use in managing stormwater runoff include:

    • Installing permeable pavement

    • Directing water to more permeable areas

    • Collecting rainwater in a rain barrel for irrigation and other household uses

    • Installing rain gardens

    • Planting trees

    • Disconnecting downspouts from storm drains

    • Keeping storm drains free of debris; never dump anything down a storm drain or into a waterway

    • Disposing of trash and yard waste properly

    • Cleaning up pet waste and disposing it in the trash