Green infrastructure lessens adverse environmental impacts through features like rain garden, which intercept water flowing down a street, filter out impurities, and let the water drain slowly into the underlying aquifer. Rain gardens also enhance the beauty of streetscapes, slow down traffic , and encourage pedestrians to enjoy walking.
Our society has traditionally had a throw-away mentality: use it, toss it and put it out of mind. Recycling and waste reduction aim to break that destructive and contaminating cycle. The same applies to rain gardens, which break the cycle of wasting rain water.
Rain running through streets picks up sediments and chemicals from trash, cigarette butts, pet waste, drippings from car engines, bits of vehicle tires, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, leaves, other organic matter, and in winter highly damaging road salt. Street water eventually runs into streams, either directly or through storm drains.
Heavy flows erode stream banks; contaminants kill fish, amphibians, and insect larvae as well as making life difficult for communities that use water downstream for drinking.
Federal and state regulations require many communities to reduce pollutants; and besides, who these days wants to be worsening erosion and water contamination? West Chester Borough approved a stream protection fee after the state adopted enabling legislation in 2015.
Because all properties (and the sidewalks and streets next to them) produce runoff from rain and snow, all properties are subject to this fee, as the fairest way to repair and maintain the Borough’s storm water infrastructure, which at 100 years old has serious leaks and blockages.
Each property is assessed in proportion to its area that water cannot penetrate, such as roofs, parking areas, patios. Credits are available for certain measures that reduce runoff into the street, such as rain gardens, downspout disconnection, holding basins, and permeable paving.
Fees go into a separate fund used only for mitigating the storm water impact on streams. Unlike taxes, non-profits and government entities, including the Borough itself, pay their fair share.
With or without a fee, all residents and property owners should help to reduce runoff from properties and keep the streets clean!
This Information is from the West Chester Green Team. For official Borough information see here. See also the handout prepared by the Stormwater Assessment Advisory Committee for the May 4, 2016, hearing on West Chester’s future Stormwater Protection Fee (download here: Stream Protection fee overview).
Above: rain garden, corner of W. Nields and S. Everhart streets, West Chester. The sign says: “Better Roads / Cleaner Streams / Improving water quality, one road segment at a time! / This Environmentally Sensitive Road Maintenance Project has been funded by Chester County Conservation and your Municipality.”
Below: rain garden across the street on the same corner. Water runs in through the curb opening and over the stones into the basin part of the rain garden, where it stands and slowly seeps into the ground.