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Answer 1: A stormwater utility is a legal entity which can provide stormwater management activities including administrative functions, planning, engineering, regulation, permitting, maintenance operations, and capital improvements. The stormwater utility, similar to water, sewer, electric, and gas utilities, provides a method of generating revenue for these activities through user fees. Rates are most commonly based on impervious surface area measurements.
Answer 2. The primary purpose is to make sure all residents and businesses of York County have a safe and healthy environment. Our goal is to make sure the county’s rivers and streams are clean and healthy and during rain events, properties do not flood. To achieve this goal, the County has to proactively inspect, repair, and replace stormwater pipes, culverts, drainage swales, and ditches. If the County waits until something fails, the damage is much more severe and the cost to fix the failure is much higher.
A stormwater utility furthers the goal by:
Answer 3. A major storm water quality concern is "non-point source pollution." As the name implies, non-point source pollution comes from numerous locations all across the county and is carried through runoff. The types of pollutants include toxins, metals, oils, nutrients (fertilizers and pesticides), and fecal coliform bacteria from leaking sanitary sewers, farm animals and pet waste. These directly impact our water quality and now represent the #1 pollution sources to our waterways. Activities such as street sweeping, elimination of leaking sanitary sewers, increased cleaning of storm drains, and public education and outreach can help control or reduce these pollutants.
Answer 4. Impervious surfaces tend to collect a variety of pollutants including cleaning products; paint; oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from automobiles; road salts; pesticides and fertilizers from lawn maintenance, gardening, and farming; pet waste; litter; and eroded sediments. Increased amounts of pollutants can harm fish and wildlife, kill native plants, contaminate drinking water supplies, and make recreational areas unsafe.
Answer 5. Impervious surfaces are hard surfaces (such as rooftops, streets, parking lots, driveways, patios, asphalt, concrete, compacted gravel, and other paved areas). These surfaces prevent or limit the natural entry of stormwater into the ground. When stormwater hits an impervious surface, it runs off and does not soak into the ground. Runoff can generate high volumes of water and it flows more quickly than water flowing over a vegetated surface. Runoff and stormwater flowing quickly can cause flooding. It can also cause erosion in ditches and streams when the bare soil becomes exposed.
Answer 6. Drainage problems may include roadway or structural flooding, clogged or failing underground pipes and culverts, stream bank erosion and stormwater pollution affecting streams, ponds, and lakes.
Answer 7. Historically, the allocation of funds has not been sufficient to address all of York County's storm water service needs. The County is currently reactive to addressing problems. Being reactive instead of proactive results in greater environmental damage as well as being more costly to cleanup or repair. Similar to failing to properly maintain your car, if we do not properly maintain stormwater infrastructure, a failure can be catastrophic. State and federal laws also require that municipalities address the environmental impacts of stormwater pollution, but do not provide the funds to do it. Consequently, we must investigate alternative means for raising revenue.
Answer 8. With the County’s increased amounts of impervious surface, more runoff is produced and consequently travels at higher speeds through our drainage system. This runoff picks up and carries pollutants to the stormwater collection system and eventually leads to receiving waters such as lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Large volumes of quickly flowing runoff will also erode soil, damage plants, and cause waters to become clouded and murky with sediments. This sediment from erosion can be deposited in slower moving waters. Eventually the deposited soils can fill in streams, ponds, and lake coves increasing the possibility of future flooding over time.
Answer 9. No. Only sewage is collected and transported to the County’s wastewater treatment plant by the sanitary sewer system. Stormwater flows through the storm drain system of culverts, ditches, stream channels, and flood plains. It empties unfiltered into our streams, ponds, and lakes. It would be too expensive to size the sanitary sewers to convey and treat stormwater in the same manner as sanitary sewage. The volume of sewage generated by our homes and businesses each day is insignificant compared to the fluctuating volume of stormwater runoff generated during a rainstorm. The more cost effective solution is to prevent the entry of pollutants into the stormwater system in the first place.
Answer 10. Currently any storm water expenditure is paid for through the County’s general fund property taxes. In place of this we will be implementing a user fee. This will be collected as an annual fee from all residences, businesses, and organizations in York County. These will include residential, commercial and industrial properties, non-profit organizations, federal, state and county owned properties, and schools. Since we all benefit from a storm water system and all properties create stormwater runoff, a user fee is an equitable solution for everyone. User fees are established by calculating the impervious area of each property. Impervious surface area measurements are converted to an ERU and then assessed an annual fee per ERU. For York County, one ERU equals 3,200 square feet of impervious coverage, which is what an average home (building footprint, driveway, garages, etc.) has for impervious coverage.
Below is an example of the annual revenue you could receive from your stormwater utility fees. The current goal is to charge a lower amount the 1st year so it will not impact your budget too much but still provide enough to start funding some critical initial projects. Amounts will increase over the next 3 years until the approved fee schedule is obtained.
Businesses, Organizations ERU
25% of I.S. *
50% of I.S. *
100% of the I.S. *
*I. S. equals Impervious Surface
Answer 11. An “Equivalent Residential Unit”, or ERU, is a common billing unit for stormwater utility fees. An ERU is a measure of the average amount of impervious surface area for a single-family residential property located in the county and can be used to assess stormwater user fees. Much like a “kilowatt” serves as the basis for electrical utility, the ERU is the base unit for a stormwater utility. Many communities have established stormwater utilities based on the ERU.
Answer 12. Yes, because it is a user fee, just like water and sewer fees which are based upon the cost of services provided. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of the property. The Stormwater Utility Fee is based on the amount of impervious surface area on each property that contributes to stormwater runoff. Because this is not a tax, it is collected from all customers who receive service. Tax exempt properties contribute a significant amount of runoff to the County because of their size and amount of hard surface. They will be treated like all other customers under the rate structure.
Answer 13. Yes, these include: undeveloped properties, agricultural/forestlands as identified by the County Assessor, and public roadways.
Answer 14. Your property may not be physically connected to the drainage system in the same manner as water or sewer but you are still provided service. How? Our stormwater program improves and maintains drainage facilities throughout the County. It establishes design criteria and regulates development that helps control off site stormwater problems. This program is taking steps to reduce stormwater pollutants that degrade our water quality and the environment of the County. Also, as part of the maintenance of state and county roads, the County and State ensure runoff from the roads is not causing flooding by mowing drainage ditches, repairing culverts and pipes, and cleaning out catch basins. Every property owner in the county, therefore, is served by these activities.
Answer 15. Everyone in the County benefits from the Stormwater Management Program. The fees collected through the stormwater utility are dedicated solely to managing our stormwater program. This program brings us into compliance with State and Federal regulations and safeguards our community through improved drainage and protection of our local waterways. The funds help us enforce minimum standards for stormwater and flood management so a property owner does not cause damage to another property owner from flooding by not properly designing and addressing stormwater runoff. While you may not have drainage problems on your property, people using state and county roads expect the roads will not flood and more importantly, do not cause flooding to property owners.
Answer 16. Yes, as long as that property contains impervious area.
Answer 17. Under most conditions, the bill will go to whoever pays the tax bill for the property.
Answer 18. The stormwater utility will provide the funds necessary to provide for the administration, maintenance, and improvement of the County’s stormwater systems. Some of the services tied to the stormwater program include:
Answer 19: The current amount of money taken from general fund taxes that pay for the county’s stormwater projects is minimal. As such, our existing system is aging, unable to address increasing federal mandates, and cannot keep up with increased demand as we grow as a county. The county cannot definitively state at this point what changes may occur in taxation until we can more accurately gauge current maintenance and future projects across York County.
Answer 20. “Best management practices” or BMPs is a term used to describe different ways to keep pollutants out of runoff and to slow down high volumes of runoff. Preventing pollution from entering water is much more affordable than cleaning polluted water. Educating residents about how to prevent pollution from entering waterways is one of many best management practices. Regulations that require people and businesses involved in earth disturbing activities, like construction and agriculture, to take steps to prevent erosion are another way to prevent stormwater pollution. There are also laws about litter, cleaning up after pets and dumping oil or other substances into storm drains. Education, laws, and construction codes are just a few best management practice examples.
In many instances, BMPs are physically constructed to protect specific areas. BMPS can be designed to slow down stormwater in order to reduce erosion, while others help reduce the pollutants already in it. There are also BMPs that do both. Good examples of constructed BMPs would be stormwater basins you see in neighborhoods, shopping centers, and industrial sites. Detention ponds fill up quickly after a rainstorm and allow solids like sediment and litter to settle at the pond bottom. Then, they slowly release water which is now less polluted into our streams, ponds, and rivers. These ponds are one example of a constructed BMP. Stream buffers, storm drain grates, filter strips, sediment fences, underground detention systems, and permeable paving are other examples. Here are some pictures of recent constructed BMPs:
These are before and after pictures of an erosion control BMP recently constructed at Guilford Road.
These are before and after pictures of a recently constructed stream restoration BMP.
Answer 21. For commercial property owners, the IRS, depending on your specific tax situation may consider the charge a cost of doing business. Residential property owners will likely not be able to deduct the storm water fee on their taxes.
Answer 22. Please call 803.909.7250and provide your name, address, phone number and a brief description of the drainage problem so that the County can further investigate the problem, or refer your question to the most appropriate County staff member.