Lancaster is looking to gain momentum in its 4-year-old program to block stormwater from polluting local streams that drain into Chesapeake Bay.

“We’re well on our way,” said Lancaster Stormwater program manager Ruth Hocker.

Hocker said the city now annually captures 45 to 50 million gallons of dirty water that gushes from parking lots, sidewalks, streets and lawns into local waterways and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

The 25-year target is to eliminate all 750 million gallons of Lancaster’s runoff by installing more “green infrastructure” — rain gardens, vegetative roofs, rain barrels and porous pavements — that channels rain and snowmelt into the ground.

The city, he said, has completed about 40 of 60 planned projects to reduce the storm surges that overwhelm Lancaster’s treatment plant and sully the Conestoga River with oil, automotive fluids, pet waste, fertilizers, pesticides and raw sewage.


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But it must hatch more projects and win the help of more businesses and residents as it tries to cut the discharges and avoid potential federal Environmental Protection Agency penalties or mandates to alter its strategy.

“Our biggest challenge, I think, is engaging the community that is not here tonight,” Hocker said during a panel discussion Monday night at Tellus360 following a screening of the 2014 environmental documentary “Water Blues, Green Solutions.” The panel included Karl Graybill, city environmental planner, and Fritz Schroeder, director of urban greening for the Lancaster County Conservancy.

Green thinking

The city-conservancy partnership Save It! hopes to grow its network several ways.

It is seeking to make “green thinking” more common as it updates city codes and starts new public works projects, said Graybill, adding that such efforts will cut about half the overflows.

As part of that, the partnership is trying to educate more contractors and architects about the need to design sustainable structures as well as educate clients about them.

And, like Philadelphia, San Antonio, Texas, and South Bronx — urban success stories featured in the documentary — Lancaster is reaching out to more teachers and students.

For example, Save It! partners said they’re working with the Hand Middle School biology department to create community and rain gardens to capture 300,000 gallons of stormwater.

According to Schroeder, the partners also will tap the expertise of students from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, which has established a water and technology certification curriculum.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 17, the city will hold the second two-hour workshop in a new series to educate contractors on its green infrastructure and stormwater management fee/credit programs.

The names of participants will be added to a list available to property owners by request. Between 60 and 70 building-industry professionals attended the first workshop earlier this year, Schroeder said.

On the public-works front, Hocker said after the meeting, “one of our bigger ideas” is to control the runoff into the Little Conestoga Creek from Route 30 and Park City Center.

Lancaster long ago opted for green infrastructure over installing huge holding tanks, which officials say could cost $300 million, more than twice as much.