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A countywide stormwater authority funded by a fee on every property is one way for York County to deal with its nitrogen deposits in streams and rivers — but it's not the only option.

At a York County Planning Commission meeting Feb. 19, Director Felicia Dell updated the board about possible solutions for meeting state and federal water quality mandates.

The mandates are part of Pennsylvania's participation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, a cooperative plan signed by six states and the District of Columbia in 2014 with the stated goal of restoring the health of the bay.

"Through all of this feedback and the planning that we did last year until now, we’ve developed a spectrum or an array of options for the county commissioners to consider," Dell said.

Those options include implementing local water-quality monitoring, expanding existing county departments to handle more stormwater compliance issues or even creating a new water-quality department in the county government.

A countywide stormwater authority will remain one of the options.

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Participating entities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement have established goals to reduce phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment deposits in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025, and in Pennsylvania those goals are broken down by county.

York County has already met its goal for phosphorous, and environmental regulators determined sediment deposits are no longer a concern in the bay.

This leaves nitrogen as the target for cleanup efforts.

York County's current nitrogen deposits total about 11.9 million pounds a year, Dell said, and that needs to decrease to 7.9 million pounds by 2025 in order to meet the goal.

Residents apprehensive: County residents at public meetings last year often asked why it would be necessary to create an authority instead of finding another solution.

In December, supervisors from Lower Chanceford Township brought a petition to the York County Board of Commissioners opposing the creation of a stormwater authority.

President Commissioner Susan Byrnes said that because the stormwater problem is a countywide issue, all 72 municipalities will need to come together to address it, but she also reassured the petitioners that nothing had been decided yet.

"The stormwater authority is not a done deal," Byrnes said. "We are still investigating. We are still reaching out."

In a tentative timeline, Senior Planner Lindsay Gerner said the planning commission hopes to provide a written proposal to the county commissioners in March and then give a formal presentation at a commissioners' meeting in April.

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Background: In several public meetings over the course of 2018, Dell explained that  although municipalities, farmers, businesses and homeowners all address stormwater issues individually, the county is not meeting the overall stormwater requirements imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Dell said a stormwater authority would exist to gather enough resources to prove to the DEP and EPA that York County is meeting more of the requirements than the two agencies' records indicate and to offer help to property owners and municipalities to meet the requirements.

Those resources would be supported by a fee of $48.90 charged to all York County property owners.

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