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Chester County Press

Streams and water quality studied in London Grove

07/09/2014 08:58PM ● By Acl

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

Environmental issues were a focus of the July 2 meeting of the London Grove Township board of supervisors. 

Board member David Connors led a discussion of water monitoring devices that could be placed in streams to measure levels of pollutants that could then be reported to the Department of Environmental Protection.

“We do have an issue with this, particularly at composting operations in the township,” Connors said. “These devices could read levels both above and below these operations.”

Township manager Steve Brown said the township is “in great shape financially” and can afford to purchase several of the units, which are priced at $2,500 each.

The Stroud Water Research Center will maintain and monitor the units, according to supervisor Robert Weer, if the township first purchases the units. 

“They're essentially an alarm system,” Connors explained. “If we get a high reading, we can take action and see where the pollution is coming from.” Connors said other municipalities are interested in the units as well.

The units are portable and can be repositioned in streams throughout the township, Connors said. The units had been priced at around $20,000 each, but open-source technology has brought the cost down considerably. Stroud has a strong interest in acquiring reliable data that can be given to the DEP.

Board member Robert Hittinger had an issue with the response of DEP officials in the past. “Let's say we get this data and talk to the DEP,” he said. “They have a history of not being very responsive. I'm concerned about what happens if we invest quite a bit of money in these units and the DEP tells us to go pound sand.”

Connors said previous DEP response may have been due to a lack of hard evidence of pollution levels, something which the monitors could now supply. “Once the reading jumps, Stroud can go and study the levels right away,” Connors said. “I would hope that DEP could then step in.”

Weer made a motion to authorize the purchase of two of the units. Board member Richard Scott-Harper seconded the motion, and the purchase was approved. Hittinger cast the only dissenting vote.

Later in the meeting, the board heard from two representatives of the Brandywine Conservancy about possible assessments of the township's riparian buffers. A grant from the William Penn Foundation is allowing the Brandywine Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association to assess streams, and the vegetation around them, at no cost to local townships. The information gleaned from the assessments would then be used to update and enhance the regulations already in place in the townships. The survey would also help determine ownership of properties along streams, in case owners should need to plant more vegetation or take other measures.

A healthy riparian zone means having plenty of trees and other vegetation near streams to hold the  banks in place and keep sediment from clogging the waterways. Roots also filter runoff and keep it away from streams. Shade from trees boosts insect and fish habitats, resulting in a healthier ecosystem.

Preserving rivers and streams in Chester County is a major focus of the Conservancy's efforts, since the Brandywine supplies drinking water for downstream communities in Delaware.

The supervisors voted unanimously to accept the offer of the free assessments, the results of which will be incorporated into current township ordinances.

In an issue related to last winter's storms and the possiblity of flooding causing power outages, the supervisors discussed how to keep the township building open and operating in the event of a prolonged emergency. 

Brown said a policy is being adopted that would clarify how the township declares a state of emergency, how to communicate that information to residents, and how to provide power to the township building so the public could use it as a recharging station or temporary sanctuary.

The cost of an upgraded system that could power the whole building was deemed far too high – about $250,000, due to the building's geothermal heating and cooling system – so the supervisors voted to get a firm estimate for the cost of a generator that could keep the building, or part of the building, up and running for several days. 

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