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Saturday, December 18, 2010

PA DEP to Wilkes-Barre: Spend $100 million or else

If you think that government at all levels has not overstepped it’s authority, consider that cities are now determining restaurant menus.

That said, municipalities are trying to take the happy--the toy--out of the Happy Meal. Hey, if a bunch of philandering drunkards in Washington D.C. can set the menu at our local schools, why can’t our own City Council ban the use of unsaturated fats here in Wilkes-Barre?

The Government knows what it’s doing. Right?

You can’t eat what you want, you can’t smoke in public, they can outlaw specific breeds of dogs and you can’t take a dip in the fountain on Public Square when the Mercury goes ballistic. Basically, your government has gotten in the habit of telling you what (not) to do and when (not) to do it. And like the good little sheep that you are, you grouse for an instant and then blindly obey.

Freedom? We’re free? With all of this regulatory overreach going on?

But with our outstanding debts mushrooming while our economy flat lines, unfunded mandates from the Fedrule Govmint and it’s willing cohorts at the state level have the potential to bankrupt more localized municipalities near and far. And one in particular needs to be fought against to the bitter end.

At the EPA’s behest, the PA DEP is mandating that Wilkes-Barre as well as other smallish communities comply with the Clean Water Act/Clean Streams Act gone totally berserk. This is government-mandated environmentalism, in lieu of funding, gone completely berserk.

In a nutshell, hundreds of Pennsylvania communities are being forced to make multimillion dollar upgrades to storm water systems. The DEP wants massive upgrades to existing storm water drainage permits for 942 Pennsylvania municipalities to include filters in catch basins and additional basin maintenance. Required upgrades include installing filters in catch bays and basins - no matter how large or small - and cleaning those basins after storms.

The mandates were scheduled to be the law of the land earlier this year, but many Pennsylvania communities banded together in storm water coalitions to force some common sense upon the PA DEP.

“Improvement plans” were be sent to the state by September 10, 2010, but the efforts of the many storm water coalitions have pushed the soft date for implementation and compliance back to a yet undetermined date in 2012.

Let’s make this a bit more local.

First we--Wilkes-Barre--would be forced to install drainage gate filters on all of the city’s 3,700 catch basins. And then after a quote/unquote “storm,” city employees would be required to remove and clean each of the 3,700 filters.

At a recent meeting with the Wyoming Valley Sewer Authority, it was suggested to Wilkes-Barre City officials that the city begin to install disconnect chambers which would separate the storm water runoff from the sewer system, which would make combined sewage outflow discharges of raw sewage into the Susquehanna River a thing of the past.

But there’s one little problem with Wilkes-Barre taking baby steps down that road to full environmental compliance. As it was told to me by a high-ranking city official, it would cost the city in excess of $100 million dollars to make the city compliant with all aspects of this unfunded mandate from on high. And with finances being what they are, the City of Wilkes-Barre will not be floating a $1 million bond any time soon.

In addition, before full compliance is reached, the city would be forced to paint the asphalt at every one of those 3,700 storm sewers with a warning, a “this drains to” medallion. As in, this catch basin/catch bay/storm sewer leads directly to the river.

And if that’s not bizarre enough, suppose you decide to wash your car in the vicinity of a catch basin that has not yet had the drainage filters installed. Well, in that event you would be required to contain the run-off much like a hauler would be had an accident caused the spillage of dangerous chemicals or pesticides onto a roadway.

I’m well-schooled in spill containment: Call the authorities, contain the spill, then start the exhaustive clean-up. Does that sound like the proper protocol for the simple washing of one’s automobile?

In July, William Rathburn, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that John Hines, deputy secretary for water management, said the state will hold off on implementing the new rules.

Again, according to that aforementioned high-ranking city official, the “soft date” for implementation and full compliance has been pushed back to 2012.

Meanwhile, neither the EPA or the DEP has a problem with millions upon millions of gallons of proprietary fracking fluids being pumped into our water tables. So municipalities will be forced into economic insolvency to protect our water and our streams, but the gas drilling companies can pollute our water and our streams with point-source impunity?

Now give me that argument again about how Big & Bigger Government equals good governing. C’mon, give it to me again so I can chortle at your expense.



Anonymous said...

EPA does not (yet) have the legal authority to regulate fracking. That's what the Halliburton loophole is about--exemption from clean air and clean water acts.

Mark said...

Yeah, okay.

But the EPA does have the authority to regulate the run-off from my car wash at the curb.