Stormwater and Wet Weather
Frequently Asked Questions
What is stormwater?
Stormwater originates from rainfall and other precipitation that runs off of surfaces all over the Township: rooftops, streets, construction sites, lawns, fields, etc. Stormwater makes its way either along the surface or soaks into the ground. The surface water flows into swales, storm drains, and other natural water courses. As this water moves toward the streams and rivers, it can pick up things on the ground, such as pollutants, sediment, leaves, and trash.
What are the problems associated with stormwater?
At the municipal level, stormwater can cause property damage and temporarily flood roadways.
Accelerated water runoff from impervious surfaces and increased development further exacerbates the transmission of nutrients into our waterways and leads to increased flooding.
The larger problem is that stormwater outlets into our local and regional waterways. Water knows no municipal or state border and mixes with the stormwater runoff of other communities, further concentrating the pollutant load.
What is a Separated Storm Sewer System (MS4)?
Baldwin Township's Municipal Separated Storm Sewer System (commonly referred to as the MS4) is a network of inlets, pipes, swales, outlets, and other features. All of these are designed to control runoff from public streets, sidewalks, and other impervious areas. The storm sewer system plays an important role in keeping roads free of flowing or ponding water and ice, making it a key piece of public infrastructure.
What does the Township do to address stormwater problems?
The Township maintains a complete stormwater program that complies with the guidelines, or Minimum Control Measures, developed by the Pennsylvania Department for Environmental Protection (DEP). These guidelines mandate:
- Public education & outreach
- Public participation & involvement
- Illicit discharge detection & elimination
- Construction site runoff control
- Post-construction storm water management in new development & redevelopment
- Pollution prevention & good housekeeping for municipal operations & maintenance
What do Township residents have to do about stormwater problems?
First and foremost, Township residents have to comply with stormwater management ordinances.
Any construction activity within the Township that creates new impervious surface requires a stormwater management plan be submitted and approved by the Township before any work takes place. The intent of the ordinance is to limit the amount of stormwater runoff to no more than pre-development levels.
Are there other ways Township residents can become involved?
Yes, there are several ways you can become more active in the Township's efforts to keep our water clean and our roads passable. Below are are few options.
- Take a look at this Overview of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems and our Storm Water Management Program, or this Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater.
- For kids, there's the When It Rains, It Drains brochure, and the Spring Creek Stormwater Activity Book.
- Watch your mailbox, Township newsletter, and Township website for events and education sessions related to stormwater management.
Become more aware of stormwater runoff in your daily activities.
- Vehicle washing
All of the grease, grime, and soap you use enter our waterways untreated. Go to a commercial carwash whenever possible, because they filter washwater and use roughly 75% less water than a home wash. For the dedicated DIY’er, wash your car in the grass so the wash water can be absorbed and filtered naturally. Dump your bucket down the drain or in the lawn, not in the street or catch basin.
- Lawn fertilizing
Over-fertilizing is not only a waste of time and money, it creates an enormous environmental impact on our local, regional, and national waterways. All of the extra fertilizer that is not metabolized by the soil and vegetation is carried away and delivered intravenously via storm sewers into our streams, lakes, and rivers. The addition of nitrogen and phosphorus into these waterways creates algae blooms which starve aquatic life of oxygen, resulting in fish kills and dead zones completely void of any aquatic organisms.
The simplest way to ensure proper fertilization is to have your soil analyzed for its chemical composition. Test kits are available through the Penn State Agricultural Analytical Services Lab for a minimal fee (~$10). Proper turf grass species identification also plays a critical role in determining your fertilizer need. Kentucky bluegrass can require up to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, whereas a fine fescue species may only need 1 pound of nitrogen over the same area. Having both your soil chemistry and grass species identified will enable proper fertilizer selection and application.
The average 1,000-square-foot lawn in the Township may require only a pound of nitrogen applied 2-3 times annually. In most cases, the average general purpose lawn fertilizer is 25% nitrogen. Applying just 4 pounds of fertilizer a few times each spring is all that’s necessary to support most soil and turf grass combinations. The Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences has factsheets on proper fertilization, grass identification, and soil testing. Visit Extension Services at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences for more information.
- Animal waste
ALCOSAN’s “Pups for Clean Water” campaign reminds dog owners to bag their furball’s waste and dispose of it in the trash. Do not allow it to break down in your yard. Pet waste contains viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can be transmitted to humans through accidental contact. Learn more by visiting the Pups for Clean Water page of ALCOSAN’s website.
- Native plantings
Talk to your local nursery to learn more about which plants are considered “native species” to this region. These plants tolerate our diverse climate and rainfall better than non-native species do. More importantly, they do not require additional fertilizers and pesticides to survive. Planted properly, their root systems help to stave off unwanted weeds while improving soil quality. Most native plant species are also considered “salt-tolerant,” which means that they can survive being exposed to de-icing agents. However, that’s not a reason to overdo the salt spreading in the winter.
Become a Stormwater Volunteer.
- Contact Rob Zahorchak, the Township Manager, if you'd like to know more about becoming a stormwater volunteer.