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Chester County Press

Township to Begin Innovative Program to Improve Water Quality

10/14/2020 05:26PM ● By Richard L. Gaw

By a 3-0 vote at their Oct. 7 virtual meeting, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors entered the township into the Revolving Water Fund, an innovative model intended to improve water quality and reduce sediment at water sources in the Brandywine-Christina watershed by up to 40 percent during the first few years of the program.

By entering into the agreement – which will cost $155,000 and project to remove nine tons of sediment from water sources -- the township will become the first municipality in Pennsylvania to enter into the program. By entering into the program, the township will meet the regulatory mandates of the federal government and the Pennsylvania Department of EnvironmentalProtection (DEP).

Engineered through a partnership between i2 Capital and the Nature Conservancy, the Revolving Water Fund (RWF) is a groundbreaking conservation finance program that implements natural infrastructure on agricultural lands in order to reduce sediments in the waterways while supporting compliance objectives. The RWF model correlates agricultural conservation practices with regulatory compliance, water company cost savings and other private and public objectives to capture the economic benefits of conservation.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C. with offices in Colorado and Wyoming, i2 Capital structures and sponsors innovative finance mechanisms to expand capital solutions for conservation. The Virginia-based Nature Conservancy is a global environmental agency that has become one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world.

Before it is officially implemented, the RWF model first needs approval by the DEP.

The contract with the RWF will be part of Kennett Township’s 2021 budget expense, supported by the general fund. The contract comprises the remaining significant cost for the township to fulfill its sediment reduction requirements under its current MS4 permit.

The concept was developed with major support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grants program and the William Penn Foundation.

The township’s initiative is in keeping with sediment regulations that have been incorporated by state and federal governments, who have established waste-load allocations for municipalities identifying the maximum amount of pollutants that can be discharged into streams. Sediment can come from soil erosion or from the decomposition of plants and animals. Wind, water and ice help carry these particles to rivers, lakes and streams.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists an extensive array of sediment in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs, but focuses on pollutants from poisoned or toxic sediments which make their way into the food chain, accumulating in fish, ducks and other wildlife.

“Having a sufficient supply of clean water is a pressing issue for Kennett Township and the whole country,” said board Chairman Dr. Richard Leff. “The supervisors are proud of the work done by Township Manager Eden Ratliff and his staff in coming up with a solution that is cost effective for the taxpayers of the township.”

“Kennett Township is constantly seeking ways to improve the environment for our citizens,” Ratliff said. “The team at Kennett Township worked with the specialists at the Revolving Water Fund to bring this model to life in a way that is beneficial to municipal governments in Pennsylvania who face mounting pressure and costs to build out their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) plans. We are very proud to be the first municipality in Pennsylvania to pioneer this program.”

A challenge for municipalities

During her presentation to the board, Ashley Allen, founder and CEO of i2 Capital, said that a majority of the streams in the Brandywine-Christina Watershed contain an excessive amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus. While that is a challenge for the township, “it’s fundamentally a challenge that has some creative solutions that we are at the forefront of advancing,” she said. “We’ve been involved in the process to drive solutions that are affordable, compliant and make sense.”

Allen said that as much as 80 percent of the pollutants found in the Brandywine-Christina Watershed are derived from agriculture, which will direct much of the energies of the RWF to explore methods of reducing those pollutants by installing riparian buffers, cover crops and wetlands.

She said that the goal of the RWF in the township will be to identify and implement strong conservation practices, develop a risk-reduction agenda that will facilitate the projects, and provide the regulatory compliance support with the township.

Allen told the board that the township will now be in the fold of a consortium of leaders and critical partnerships in creating clean-water solutions.

“We are trying to advance a bi-state, cross-border watershed solution, and in order to do that, we need to engage with leaders on both the Delaware and Pennsylvania side,” Allen said. “You are forward-thinking and not afraid of pushing the envelope and taking a step that is breakthrough. This is definitely a very exciting partnership for us.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].