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Township's water protection efforts applauded

April 13, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - An official with the nonprofit Center for Watershed Protection on Wednesday encouraged the Washington Township (Pa.) Supervisors to continue their efforts to adopt conservation by design and flood plain ordinances as he detailed the quality of the east branch of the Antietam Creek.

"In general, it's a relatively undeveloped watershed. ... This watershed is generally in good condition," Paul Sturm said.

He described the efforts of the Antietam Watershed Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation to develop a comprehensive report of the watershed's condition and ways to protect it in the future.

Provisions in the township govern the volume, temperature and speed of stormwater runoff in new developments, according to Township Manager Mike Christopher.

"There's been a lot of activity over the years to improve the quality of our streams," Christopher said.

Development creates impervious areas like parking lots that increase runoff seven-fold, Sturm said.

"Pollutants build up on impervious surfaces, and then they all flow into the creeks. As we pave over and pave over a watershed, you tend to see a real loss of the critters that live there," Sturm said.

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In Washington Township, regulations are designed to actually reduce the amount of runoff when homes or businesses are built, Christopher said.

The study, funded through a Legacy Grant awarded to the Antietam Watershed Association, found 19 sites for possible buffer reforestation and homeowner education; two sites for stream and bank restoration; four locations for trash removal and/or prevention of dumping; six locations where livestock are permitted to trample the stream banks; and two locations with pipe discharge where "either there was a strange smell or color," Sturm said.

"Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past as far as development and protecting our streams," Sturm said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has classified area streams as impaired due to the effect urbanization and agriculture have on nutrients, sediment and biology, Sturm said.

"Basically, sewer treatment plants are another cause, according to the DEP, of impairment," he said.

Sturm made 10 recommendations concerning the 52 square miles of the watershed associated with the east branch of Antietam Creek:

  • Education and Advocacy: Work to implement flood plains and buffer ordinances in the township.

  • Continue to advocate for environmentally sensitive design in new development.

  • Advocate for stormwater practices that minimize increases in stream temperature.

  • Advocate for improved sewage treatment.

  • Advocate for smart growth strategies, agricultural preservation and the establishment of growth boundaries.

  • Consider hiring a watershed coordinator.

  • Continue to work with local farmers and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to implement five key farm stewardship projects.

  • Implement several key stormwater retrofit practices. These involve creating natural filters within existing development.

  • Create a buffer education and outreach program for residents, businesses and farmers.

  • Continue monitoring in the watershed, and track before and after monitoring.
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