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Water in Lancaster City

The Lancaser County Planning Commission Improves Local Water

 

 

ABOUT WATER IN LANCASTER COUNTY

Water Across the County

How exactly does Lancaster County determine the quality of water?

Agriculture and its Role in Lancaster County' Water System

WHAT THE CITY OF LANCASTER IS DOING TO HELP

The influence of Green Infrastructure

The Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Development of the Green Infrastructure Plan

Goals of the Green Infrastructure Plan

How did they go about getting their information?

What is being done in the streets, alleys and sidewalks?

What is being done with the parking lots?

What is being done to the rooftops?

What is being done to the parks?

What is being done in the schools and the city-owned library?

 

 


ABOUT WATER IN LANCASTER COUNTY


The Lancaster Green Infrastructure Initiative is all about making Lancaster County greener. The Lancaster County Planning Commission will be focusing on land use, transportation, heritage, revitalization and water. They also want to set out to show people that there is more to Lancaster County than the Amish. The Lancaster Planning Commission has experience with working with other companies including Turkey Hill. The Lancaster County Planning Commission is working on a water resource plan, to improve the water in Lancaster County. One thing that this water resource plan will be focusing on is improving the Chesapeake Bay which suffers from the large amounts of farms within the county.


Water Across the County


When most people think of Lancaster County they think of all the farms that they don't really take notice to the fact that there is a lot of water running through Lancaster County. There are many different types of water resources that go throughout the county. These resources include rivers, streams, water bodies, wetlands and hydrolic soil.
The benefits that we get from these different water resources are groundwater recharge, public water supply, provides habitat for plants and animals, provides wildlife migratory corridors, also gives educational opportunities.
Rivers and streams play the key role as connectors in the countywide green infrastructure system. However, one problem that has occurred is that a large amount of the native vegetation has been removed for agriculture reasons as well as urban development. The reason why this is a problem is because this causes some serious water quality impacts.
There are twenty different watersheds in Lancaster County alone. Each of these watersheds drains into their own river and stream systems within Lancaster County. Most of this water drains into the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay
There are one thousand and four hundred (1,400) miles of water flowing through Lancaster County. Some of these waters have excellent water quality, especially those that have the benefit of a forested cover. However, not all the water in Lancaster County is covered by forest, also not all the water quality throughout the County is characterized as excellent. To gives some perspective there are six hundred and eighty nine (689) miles of water in Lancaster County that are listed as impaired water. (This list is comprised by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP]). So it can be seen that that nearly half of Lancaster County's water is impaired which is clearly a problem that needs to be fixed.
Everyone takes part in the Lancaster County water system whether they realize it or not. They take part in it when they drink water, take a shower, wash their car. Even just by living they take part in the process, which is why it is important that the water in the county as well as the rest of the world is clean. However, fixing this problem must begin locally.


How exactly does Lancaster County determine the quality of the water?


The lands that are directly adjacent to the rivers and streams are known as riparian buffers. These riparian buffers have a large influence on the water quality as well as the habitat that the water supports. These riparian buffers also play a large role when it comes to Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program testing the quality of the water. With the exception of the Susquehanna River, each of these riparian buffers is analyzed.
There are many different variables that are taken into consideration when putting together these analyses. Some of the variables include the percent of riparian buffer in agriculture, the percent of riparian buffer in the urban uses, the percent of riparian buffer in that are undeveloped, such as forests and wetlands. Some other percentages that are considered are the percent of total upstream watershed in agriculture, the percentage of upstream watershed in urban uses. Finally, they also take into account the number of upstream road crossings and the number of number of upstream point sources of pollution.
The next step is that the Stream Scores are ranked from those with the highest quality to those with the lowest quality, this lead to four separate categories for water quality.

The four categories are called:

  • Best Potential Water Quality
  • Second-Best Water Quality
  • Second-Lowest Potential Water Quality
  • Lowest Potential Water Quality

The reason why they use the word "potential" in these categories is because technically they are based on GIS-derived data, and this data is subject to error. These categories help to guide the planning efforts and the aid in the decision making process. However, these categories are not to be used in place of on-site stream assessments. An example of how these categories are used as a guide is that the first two categories (Best Potential Water Quality and Second-Best Water Quality) would be made the top two priorities for preservation and conservation measures. On the other hand the second two categories (Second-Lowest Potential Water Quality and Lowest Potential Water Quality) would be made the top two priorities for restoration.
In Lancaster County the waterways that seem to have the best potential water quality tend to be located the southern, northern and the northeastern parts of the county. In these areas the water interacts with Furnace Hills, Welsh Mountain and the Susquehanna River Gorge. The areas in Lancaster County that seem to have the worst potential water quality tend to be located in central Lancaster County. In these areas water is connected with agriculture and urban uses.


Agriculture and its Role in Lancaster County's Water System


Two popular aspects that Lancaster County is associated with are the Amish and the farms. There's no denying that agriculture dominate the land use in the county. This becomes clear when you consider that approximately five thousand, two hundred and twenty five (5,225) farms use around two-thirds of land in the county. To put it into a different perspective, they use up to three hundred and forty-two thousand (342,000) acres of land. In doing this they produce over $3.2 billion worth of agricultural products each year. Lancaster County can also proudly say that it is the most productive non-irrigated county in the United States. Within the state the Lancaster County farmers can also be proud that they generate three times the income per acre of the average Pennsylvania farmer. With all of the accomplishments and success of the Lancaster County farms it just proves further that it is important to have clean and green water for these farms to use.
With the agriculture in Lancaster County is so prominent, the "Lancaster County Conservation District County Implementation Plan" in 2006 stated that poultry and dairy sales will continue to increase, this means more animals. More animals leads to more animal manure that needs to be disposed of somehow. With so much of the land in Lancaster County being dominated by farms there is becoming less land to use to put the manure. The excess of these nutrients is the largest threat to the Chesapeake Bay.
Agriculture has been very successful in Lancaster County. However its only downfall is its negative impact on the county's water quality. As stated above of the one thousand and four hundred (1,400) miles of water in Lancaster County six hundred and eighty-nine (689) are reported to be impaired by the Pennsylvania DEP. Of the six hundred and eighty nine (689) impaired waters six hundred and fifty (650) have been reported to be impaired due to agriculture – that's 95% of the water that it impaired by agriculture. The majority of the impaired water due to agriculture is located in the Conestoga watershed. In Lancaster County 98% of the surface water flows into the Chesapeake Bay, which is why people look to Lancaster County for conservation effort to help clean up and improve the bay's health.
With all agriculture playing a huge role in Lancaster County it's easy to look past the urban and suburban parts of Lancaster County. Both urban and suburban developments take part in adding nutrients to local waterways. They do this through chemical laden runoff from the fertilized laws. They also add nutrients through roads and streets, and parking lots. Nitrogen that is released into the air over time falls back down and into the water.

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WHAT THE CITY OF LANCASTER IS DOING TO HELP


There are about seven hundred and seventy (770) cities in across the nation that has a combined sewer system; the City of Lancaster is one of them. These combined water systems both collect and transport domestic sewage such as waste water from plumbing. They also collect and transport the rainwater the flows from the sidewalks, streets, downsprouts and parking lots. Around 85% of the time the City's Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility has the ability to manage and clean the amount of wastewater flowing through the combined system. This is how the system operates on a normal day. During the other 15% of the time when there is intense rainstorms the system then becomes overwhelmed. Each year there are 1 billion gallons of water that that are untreated – this is due to the rainstorms. The untreated water is made up of sewage and storm water and overflows into the Conestoga River. These overflows are referred to as combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
The combined sewer systems were built across the nation over one hundred years ago. At the time they were viewed as a fantastic method of treating all the forms of the waste from the urban area. The reason why they were seen as a fantastic method is because they collected storm water, sanitary sewage and industrial wastewater all in one pipe. They also directed the water to a treatment plant so that the water can be processed before they discharge the treated water back into the streams. This helps keep the streams nice and clean for fishing and swimming. However, overtime the urbanized areas have grown and as a result overwhelmed the sewer systems. Meanwhile, the methods were not updated to keep up with the development of the urban areas.
With all the efforts to clean up the local waterways of Lancaster County as well as the Chesapeake Bay it has lead to a renewed regional, state and even federal attention to the initiatives that were designed to maintain and restore the network of polluted streams and rivers that are a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed which have failed to pass the water quality standards. The Environmental Protection Agency has put together an initiative that puts limits on nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment pollution. These limits are referred to as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The TMDL sets measurements for the communities that are located within the sixty-four thousand (64,000) square mile watershed as a way to help ensure that the cleanup commitments are kept. Aside for the combined sewer systems these TMDLs are being made public for municipal separate storm water systems (MS4s) that are across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a result the cost to follow through with the new regulations that were made will have an effect every community.
It can be seen that the city of Lancaster has been actively working not only to reduce the combined sewer system overflows but also to identify economically viable long-term strategies that will lessen the negative impact of wet weather overflows on the water quality. As of now, most of the strategies that are under consideration have been limited to what is called "gray infrastructure" options. For example increasing the capacity of the City's wastewater conveyance and treatment infrastructure, adding storage or holding tanks to detain wastewater flows or providing some form of wastewater treatment to the overflow discharges.
Over the last 12 years the City of Lancaster has been actively and aggressively been pursuing to get upgrades to their existing gray infrastructure. In this effort more than $18 million have been invested in Lancaster City's wastewater system. This includes the construction of the first wastewater treatment system in the Commonwealth to meet nutrient removal requirements. Since the TMDLs are starting to go into effect the nutrient removal projects are now being put into effect at other treatments plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Due to additional capital investment there has been an increase in the efficiency of pumping stations to optimize the flow of wastewater to the treatment facility. These investments have lead to further captures of wet weather flows for treatment.
Unfortunately, even with this process there is still a sufficient amount of untreated combined sewage that overflows into the Conestoga River. From looking at prior evaluations on gray infrastructure from other communities it can be seen that these options are expensive to construct and maintain. To put it into perspective, one storage tank that is located in Lancaster City's Northeast section has an estimated cost of $70 million – this would only manage 10% of Lancaster City's annual CSO volume. On top of that, the estimated cost to store and treat billions of gallons of the annual overflows is priced over $250 million. These estimated costs do not take into effect the annual operational costs in energy, it also doesn't take into effect the personnel needed to the run this new gray system.


The Influence of Green Infrastructure


Since gray infrastructure is clearly expensive, Lancaster City has decided to develop a strategy to reduce the amount of storm water that enters the combined sewer system. In this strategy they plan to increase the efficiency and capacity of Lancaster City's gray infrastructure that already exists. Another part of this strategy is to employ the "green infrastructure" methods of storm water management.
The green infrastructure deals with several of different technologies that replicate and restore the natural hydrolic cycle and lessens the amount of storm water that enters the sewer system. As a result the overflows are lessened as well. There are four things the green infrastructure methods deal with as far as storm water management is concerned. The first method is infiltrate. The second method is evaporate, transpire and reduce energy consumption. The third method is to infiltrate and transpire. Finally the fourth method is they capture and reuse rain fall. They infiltrate through sidewalks and gutters and pavements. They evaporate, transpire and reduce energy consumption through roofs, trees, and planter boxes. They infiltrate and transpire through rain gardens and bioretention. Finally they capture and reuse rainfall with the use of rain barrels, cisterns, irrigation supply systems and gray water systems.


The Benefits of Green Infrastructure


As it can be seen, gray infrastructure is a green infrastructure approach. Gray infrastructure has benefits environmentally, socially, and economically. Some environmental benefits are that it recharges ground water, it provides natural storm water management, and it lessens energy usage and improves the quality of water. Some social benefits are that it beautifies and increases recreational opportunities, it improves healthier through cleaner air and water and it improves psychological well-being. Finally, some economic benefits are that it reduces future costs of storm water management and increases property values.


Development of the Green Infrastructure Plan


During May of 2010, Lancaster City began development on Pennsylvania's first class 3 Green Infrastructure plan (GI plan). It used the Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan to build on using the report made by the Lancaster County Planning Commission's Greenscapes: The Green Infrastructure Element. This plan was also built in part with LIVE Green, the Lancaster County Planning Commission, PA Department of Environmental Protection, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources along with local stakeholders.


Goals of the Green Infrastructure Plan


Lancaster City's Green Infrastructure plan has a vision for its city. Generally their goal is to provide more livable, sustainable neighborhoods for City residents and to reduce combined sewer overflows and nutrients. More specifically there are five parts to this goal. The first goal is to strengthen Lancaster City's economy and improve the health and quality of life for the residents. They plan to do this by linking clean water solutions to community improvements. The second goal is to create Green Infrastructure programs that respond comprehensively to the multiple water quality drivers in order to maximize the value of the City's investments. The third goal is to use the green infrastructure to lessen pollution and the erosive flows from urban storm water and the combined sewer overflows to support the attainment of the Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay and to improve the quality of water in the Conestoga River. The fourth goal is to bring about lower costs and higher benefits from the City's infrastructure investments. Finally, the last goal is to establish the City of Lancaster as both a statewide and national model in green infrastructure implementation.


How did they go about getting their Information?


The study was put together in a three step process. First they evaluated impervious cover by type and land ownership. Secondly they identified potential green infrastructure project sites and grant funding for early implementation to gain an understanding on costs and benefits. Finally, they determined potential citywide benefits, and provided actions and policy direction to institutionalize green infrastructure in Lancaster City.
This analysis revealed that 41% of the city's resistant surface is taken up by buildings. The parking lots take up 32% of the city, the roadways take up 25% and the remaining 2% is taken up by railroads. However these are public areas, most of the resistant areas are on the lands that are privately owned – this is why it is private investment is important to make this plan a success. Green infrastructure project will be taking place in several locations such as streets, alleys, sidewalks, parking lots, rooftops, parks, and school and city-owned properties. In these areas the Green Infrastructure plan is providing designs as well as cost estimates for the initial twenty projects in which the City can use to show each green infrastructure technology. These demonstration projects will help to remove an estimation of 21 million gallons of urban runoff from the combined sewer system a year. These projects will also help to provide data on the long-term effectiveness of employing green infrastructure plans to lessen urban storm water runoff as well as combined sewer system overflows.


What is being done in the streets, alleys and sidewalks?


The initial projects for greener streets, alleys and sidewalks are taking place at street corners. These corners are being given ADA ramp upgrades as well as streetscape improvements. In 2011 there is approximately twenty blocks worth of street that are scheduled to be repaired or to receive ADA ramp upgrades. These twenty blocks will be used as prototypes that can later be used for the City's continuous street repair system, making it so that all future street repairs will be green. If the green infrastructure were to be included into the City's current rate of road reconstruction it would take four hundred and sixty-eight (468) blocks of green street development over the next twenty-five years.
Tree planting is a key to developing green streets, especially since the City of Lancaster only has 8% tree canopy. According to studies Lancaster City will need to increase tree canopy to around 40% to help lessen storm water runoff. This effort is being done by the City in a separate DCNR funded study that will evaluate the existing tree canopy using aerial imagery and walking inventory which will provide a base measurement of the City's existing tree canopy. The Green Infrastructure plan is proposing to increase the tree canopy on the city with six thousand and two hundred and fifty (6,250) trees that will take place over the next twenty-five years. When the project is complete it will have manages storm water runoff in approximately forty-five acres of resisted area.


What is being done with the parking lots?


Typically the process of creating green parking lots involves digging a portion of a parking lot that already exists. In the dug up portion they install a stone subsurface infiltration bed with porous pavement or sometimes water quality inlets that are used to redirect storm water into the stone bed. The runoff from the surrounding streets and buildings can be redirected into the infiltration bed. Like the streets, alleys and sidewalks, trees can also be helpful to parking lots. The tree trenches can be used in the design to increase the tree canopy; they can also help to promote evapotranspiration. The best time for these parking lot projects is when the pavement in the lot needs to be replaced. The Green Infrastructure plan is estimated to manage runoff from 130 acres privately –owned parking lots in the next 25 years.


What is being done to the rooftops?


When it rains not only does it drop on the ground but it drops on rooftops. There are many different ways that the rain water the falls on rooftops can be controlled. At this point in time the City of Lancaster has fifty-one thousand (51,000) square feet of green roofs which is over an acre. Based on the results from the Lancaster County Roof Greening Project that was done by the Lancaster Planning Commission and implemented by LIVE Green, the Green Infrastructure plan is requesting two more acres of green roofs over the next five years and in the long term they are requesting thirty acres of green roofs. As stated above there are many ways to control rainwater that falls on rooftops, one way that this can be done is through disconnection of downsprouts. Downsprouts in the City commonly go straight to the combined sewer system. However, these downsprouts can be redirected to go to open green spaces, they can go to rain barrels, cistern, rain gardens or they could go to storm water planters.
LIVE Green has it Urban Watershed Initiative in which they have been providing rain barrels to residents who are seeking low-cost solutions. LIVE Green has installed two hundred and fifty (250) rain barrels; they have also installed rain gardens. By doing this LIVE Green has lessened the volume of storm water that goes through the municipal sewer system and the local streams by over 3 million gallons each year. The Green Infrastructure plan is requesting that another two thousand (2,000) buildings to disconnect their downsprouts.


What is being done in the parks?


In 2009 the Urban Park, Recreational, and Open Space Plan was completed, which was one of the City's previous investments that the Green Infrastructure plan uses as a tool as they try to restore parks and work on reconstruction projects. The Green Infrastructure plan is requesting to work on twenty-six of the City's thirty parks to help control to water runoff from the seventeen acres of resistant surface area. The Green Infrastructure plan has laid out specific ideas for what they have in mind for the renovation as well as restoration for three parks. The plan uses these park areas to manage storm water runoff from surrounding roadways along with other resistant areas. An example of what the Green Infrastructure plan is doing is the Sixth Ward Memorial Park that was recently completed. In the park they employed a porous basketball court and infiltration bed to lessen runoff from surrounding roadways along with other resistant areas. It's estimated that the runoff was lessened by seven hundred thousand (700,000) gallons each year. Fun fact is that the new basketball court was built at half the coast that the separate gray infrastructure that was designed to do reach the same goal. It's always a huge plus when the greener option of also the less expensive option. Now children can enjoy a nice basketball court while having clean water.


What is being done in the schools and the city-owned library?


The long-term goal for the Green Infrastructure plan is to green thirty-eight acres of resistant surface area that is associated with the fifteen public schools. By implementing many different green infrastructure techniques to control storm water that is generated on-site can help with controlling additional resistant areas from surrounding properties. The City Libraries as well as other publicly owned facilities provide the same green infrastructure opportunities as the schools The Green Infrastructure plan has conceptual designs for both the Lancaster Public Library and two public schools.


As you can see water works as a domino effect throughout Lancaster County. What happens in the farms of the rural area can effect what happens in the streets of the city. In order to fully understand what is going on with the water in one part of the county it helps to understand what's going on in the rest of the surrounding areas. Water through the county is constantly interacting with one another. That's why it is not only important to clean the water in the city but to also clean the water through the county. As it can be seen, the Lancaster Planning Commission along with other groups is already doing a lot of work to get closer to the goal of a greener city and a greener county. The Lancaster County Planning Commission cleans your local water.

 

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This site was created by Lindsey O'Callaghan at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

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