Pennsbury, Birmingham ‘inadequate’ in stormwater report

Pennsbury and Birmingham townships were given average scores on stormwater management in a report issued by Clean Water Action of Pennsylvania.

The non-profit environmental group issued the report Jan. 31. It ranked 25 Chester County communities in the Brandywine Creek Watershed on a scale of 1-100 based on how the municipalities have adopted Low Impact Development ideas as part of their stormwater management plans.

Joe Nye, a program organizer for Clean Water, called the idea “green stormwater management,” and said none of the municipalities scored 100.

“Every town needs to improve,” he said during a brief press conference at the Brandywine River Museum.

Scoring highest at 71 were East Bradford and Pocopson Townships. Valley and South Coatesville ranked last at 42. Birmingham and Pennsbury came in as average, scoring 64 and 61 respectively. Nye said prior to the official release of the report that all the municipalities other than the top two “fall into the inadequate category in terms of doing their green stormwater management.”

Word of the report was new to supervisors in Pennsbury and Birmingham townships.

Birmingham’s Supervisors’ Chairman John Conklin said in a telephone interview after the press conference that he wants to see the basis for considering Birmingham to be inadequate.

Conklin has in the past expressed frustration over environmental requirements in that they don’t necessarily make a lot of sense to him.

“They threaten to burn up scarce resources, taxpayer resources, for a questionable outcome. These people aren’t talking to us about measurement. They’re using national or regional models for these things. We’re really close to the water here and we can’t help but scratch our heads over why so many requirements would be dictated for such questionable benefit,” Conklin said.

Pennsbury Supervisor Aaron McIntyre was also unaware of the report, but said Chester County has new stormwater management guidelines that townships must either adhere to or make ones that are even stricter.

“We [supervisors] are all very interested and concerned about keeping our water clean and our streams protected,” McIntyre said.

Nye said the goal of his group, with the aid of other organizations such as the Brandywine Conservancy, is to get municipalities to adopt ordinances that will bring the towns into better compliance with the Department Environmental Protection’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems requirements. Those MS4 requirements are an attempt to control the volume and rate of stormwater runoff.

Nye said Clean Water makes many recommendations, but focuses on advising the towns to “make sure less pavement goes down.”

“One of the biggest issues we have with protecting waterways is that you have so much untreated water running along surfaces — quickly and in too high of a volume — into streams,” Nye said. “Putting down less pavement and having more natural vegetation allows for more infiltration of water naturally. It slows the volume and actually removes a lot of the pollutants before the water gets into the streams.”

He said the biggest things municipalities can do is to enact new, or amend existing, ordinances that reduce the width of streets, shorten driveways, decrease the size and number of parking spaces and to make sure sidewalks slope toward front yards.

The report said that all communities fell short when it came to driveways and parking spaces and that they should all become more environmentally friendly. Most did well when it came to tree conservation, parking lot runoff and land conservation incentives.

“We’re not asking for existing roads to be torn up, we’re just advocating change for new development and redevelopment,” Nye said.

He added that changing ordinances for driveway length and road width do not necessarily add costs to the townships involved.

Wes Horner, a senior planner with the conservancy, said that while ordinances in the watershed have improved over the years, there is still flooding and more is to continue.

“We’re still haunted by runoff from additional development,” Horner said.

According to a press release, Clean Water Action applied the Center for Watershed Protection Codes and Ordinances Worksheet to land use codes. It evaluates 22 categories of land use development and assigns points for the Low Impact Development ordinances.

A copy of the report can be found at

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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