Unity Township recognizes that storm water is a very important natural resource that provides a source for our drinking water supplies, water for our crops, lawns and gardens, and a replenishment of our streams, ponds and lakes which in turn provide recreation opportunities and enhanced aesthetic value to our community.
In order to protect our natural waterways, Unity Township has implemented a program to regulate the storm water that is intercepted by its municipal separate storm sewer system, or MS4. This program was initiated by a state-wide mandate for small- to medium-sized communities with MS4s, such as Unity Township, to be permitted under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP’s) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II permit program. This webpage provides general information on storm water and on the Township’s MS4 stormwater program.
What is an MS4?
MS4 is an acronym for a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. An MS4 is defined as a collection and conveyance system or a group of collection and conveyance systems owned, operated and maintained by a state, city, township, borough or other public entity. An MS4 collects and conveys only storm water runoff and conveys it into streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands or other natural or man-made receiving waters within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The MS4 system may include such structures as storm pipes, catch basins, storm manholes, trench drains, roadside swales and cross drains, conveyance channels, detention ponds, infiltration basins, rain gardens or other structures designated for the collection, storage and conveyance of stormwater runoff.
What is Stormwater Runoff?
Stormwater runoff is water from rainfall, snowmelt, and/or ice melt that flows over ground or across impervious surfaces (streets, parking lots and rooftops) and does not infiltrate into the ground. Stormwater runoff may flow directly into natural waterways or it may be intercepted and collected by the Township’s municipal separate storm sewer system where it is then discharged at discrete locations referred to as outfalls into the natural waterways.
What is Non-Stormwater Discharge?
Non-stormwater discharge is discharge into the Township’s MS4 system or natural waterways that is not rainfall or snowmelt. Non-stormwater discharge includes groundwater exfiltration, mine pool discharge, discharges from potable water sources such as fire hydrants or waterline blow-off valves, sanitary sewer discharges, septic systems, or combined sanitary and storm overflows. The Township’s stormwater management ordinance prohibits illicit discharges and connections into its MS4 but does list certain exemptions for non-stormwater discharges.
Why Can Stormwater Runoff Be A Problem In The Township?
As stormwater runoff flows over lawns, roadways, parking lots, or land disturbed by construction activities, it accumulates chemicals, oils and grease, debris and litter, sediment, heat or other pollutants that contaminate and adversely affect the water quality of our natural waterways.
Also, as more impervious cover is constructed or as natural vegetation is cleared and the underlying soil is compacted, more stormwater runoff is generated. Stormwater runoff pollution can lead to deterioration of the quality of our natural waterways which are used for fishing, swimming, boating, as well as sources of our potable water supply. Increases in stormwater volume can lead to accelerated stream bank erosion and more frequent flooding which can result in damage to and loss of property as well as premature failure of roadways, bridges, and other infrastructure.
What is Unity Township Doing About Stormwater Runoff?
As part of its MS4 permit program, the Township has implemented several actions required under the NPDES storm water program, permittees must develop a stormwater management plan that provides the details of how the community will comply with the requirements of the permit. Permits are based on six Minimum Control Measures, or MCMs, to ensure the proper handling and discharge of stormwater through its MS4 system. Such measures include:
What can residents of Unity Township do to improve stormwater quality in the Township?
It takes everyone to provide continual improvement to the waterways within Unity Township. We would hope that every person realizes that what is dumped into the Township’s MS4 system, ultimately ends up in the streams, rivers and lakes that we all care about. Here are several things each of us can do to help keep our waterways clean.
- Do not dump any chemicals, oils or other automotive fluids, grease, pet waste, grass clippings or other yard debris, fertilizers, etc. into storm inlets, catch basins, roadside ditches or directly into stream channels. This can lead to endangerment of the health of fish and other aquatic life, decrease in recreational opportunities and impairment of drinking water.
- Have your vehicles serviced regularly to eliminate or minimize any leaks in your vehicle.
- Do not litter or illegally dump. Always dispose of any trash in its proper location and recycle whenever possible. Car batteries can be turned it at most automotive parts stores. Used motor oil and worn tires can be turned in at most auto service shops and auto parts stores.
- Follow the instructions when applying fertilizers and pesticides to your lawn or garden and never apply these products immediately before a rain storm. Use fertilizers sparingly and use least toxic pesticides.
- Vegetate bare spots in your yard and compost your yard waste. Also direct down spouts away from paved surfaces where possible.
- Consider installing a rain barrel on downspouts to capture rain water or a rain garden to capture and treat runoff from your property.
- Construction activities such as new buildings or building additions, installing or paving driveways or parking lots, and bringing in or hauling out fill material should include protection of storm inlets and waterways from sediment. Construction activities larger than 5,000 square feet in disturbed area should have a written erosion and sedimentation control plan on site and implemented. Contact the Township office at 724-539-2546 or the Westmoreland Conservation District office at 724-837-5271 for more information.
- Notify the Township at 724-539-2546 to report any pollutants or suspicious substances entering or that have entered into the Township’s storm sewer system, streams, wetlands or other waterways.
Related Links and more information for the Township’s Stormwater Program
- A slide presentation of the Township’s MS4 system
- A stormwater educational flyer prepared by PADEP
- Information on handling discharge from swimming pools
- Contact the Township Supervisors’ office at (724) 539-2546 for more information or if you have any questions
- As required under its MS4 permit, the Township submits an MS4 Annual/Progress Report that reports actions that the Township has taken over the past year to reduce pollution in its MS4 and receiving waters. Click here to view the latest report.