In 2003, the City of Latrobe became one of approximately 670 small urban communities within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania required to have its municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) regulated under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP’s) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II permit program for storm water discharges from storm sewer systems within small to medium-sized communities within urbanized areas as defined by the 2000 U.S. Census.
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 that is dedicated solely for the handling of surface runoff from precipitation events and discharging it into tributaries, streams, rivers, lakes 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, trench drains, roadside swales and cross drains, conveyance channels, detention ponds, or other structures designated for the collection and conveyance of stormwater runoff.
What is Stormwater Runoff?
Stormwater runoff is water from rainfall or snow/ice melt that flows over ground or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots and rooftops) and does not percolate into the ground. Stormwater runoff may flow directly into natural tributaries, streams, rivers, lakes or other waterways within the City or it is intercepted and collected by the City’s municipal storm sewer system where it is then discharged at discrete locations (outfalls) into streams, rivers, lakes and other natural waterways.
What is Non-Stormwater Discharge?
Non-stormwater discharge includes groundwater exfiltration, mine pool discharge, discharges from potable water sources such as fire hydrants or waterline blow-off valves, and sanitary sewer discharges either from publicly-owned treatment works collection systems or on-lot septic systems. Many non-stormwater discharges are prohibited under the City’s illicit discharge and connection ordinance.
Why can stormwater runoff be a problem in the City?
As stormwater runoff flows over lawns, impervious surfaces, 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 stream channel flooding which can result in damage to and loss of property as well as premature failure of roadway culverts and bridges.
What is the City doing about stormwater runoff?
As part of its MS4 permit program, the City has implemented several actions, or control measures, to ensure the proper handling and discharge of stormwater through its MS4 system. Such measures include the following:
- Accessibility and distribution of educational materials concerning stormwater runoff at City buildings and through various outlets to residents, businesses, contractors and developers within the City. Several links to additional information are also provided below (hyperlink to Related Links).
- Development of a City-wide MS4 outfall map showing streets, municipal storm sewers and sewer outfalls into the Loyalhanna Creek within the City. Developed through the Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination program, this map serves as a tool to isolate, identify and eliminate sources of non-stormwater discharges through visual inspection of the storm sewer system and dye-testing of sanitary laterals from homes, schools, businesses and industries.
- Moving toward adoption of an ordinance to prohibit illicit discharges and connections of non-stormwater into its MS4 system and to give the City authority to fine individuals caught illegally dumping pollutants into its MS4 system.
- Providing educational material to developers and contractors who come to the City building for building permit applications.
- Continually maintaining and tracking its MS4 system through cleaning, repairing and improving the system to ensure that it is functioning correctly. The City is also monitoring all other municipal operations such as fleet vehicle maintenance, municipal property maintenance, salt stockpiling to minimize any detrimental impacts that these operations may have on the MS4 system.
What can residents of the City of Latrobe do to improve stormwater and public drinking quality in the City?
It takes everyone to provide continual improvement to the waterways within the City of Latrobe. We would hope that every person realizes that what is dumped into the City’s MS4 system, ultimately ends up in the Allegheny River, a source for recreation and public drinking water. Here are several things each of us can do to help keep our rivers and other 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, street gutters or directly into stream channels.
- Have your car or truck serviced regularly and repaired to eliminate any leaks in your vehicle.
- Do not litter or 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 into most service shops.
- Follow the instructions when applying fertilizers and pesticides to your lawn or garden and never apply these products immediately before a rain storm.
- Notify the City via (724) 537-3580 if you see any pollutants, spills or non-stormwater discharge in the City’s MS4 system or natural waterways.
Ann Powell, Director of Stormwater Management
901 Jefferson St.
Latrobe, PA 15650