MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. This system is owned and operated by a public
body, in our case the Township, and includes inlets, basins, man-made channels, storm drains, and
various other stormwater conveyance systems.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with regulating stormwater
pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA). Portions of the stormwater requirements of the federal CWA
are administered under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (PADEP) Municipal
Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program. As part of our 2019 MS4 permit, Bethlehem Township is
faced with new unfunded mandates, resulting in the need to spend considerably more money over the
five-year permit cycle than ever before to improve water quality.
Bethlehem Township is required to complete pollutant reduction planning and implement Best
Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce pollution loadings entering our local waterways. Over the 2019
permit term (2019-2024) we are required to reduce sediment by 10%, phosphorus by 5% and nitrogen
by 3%. In addition, there are six Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) that the Township is mandated to
follow, each containing their own set of BMPs. The six MCMs are listed below with examples of their
Stormwater management BMPs--or Best Management Practices - are control measures used to improve
water quality by reducing contaminants that enter local waterways. BMPs are designed to reduce
stormwater volume, peak flows, and nonpoint source pollution through evapotranspiration, infiltration,
detention, and filtration. Examples of BMPs include stream bank stabilization, detention basin retrofits,
rain gardens, bio swales, permeable pavement, street sweeping and installation of community rain
Stormwater management involves managing rainwater that is not absorbed by our lawns and gardens.
Impervious surface on your property may impact the quantity of stormwater runoff that will be
managed by Bethlehem Township. Also, household tasks such as car washing and use of fertilizer can
impact stormwater quality. All residents utilize the stormwater system, and everyone should play a role
in supporting its maintenance and upkeep.
Impervious area is any surface which prevents infiltration of rainfall into the soil. This includes pavement
(asphalt, concrete, etc.), rooftops, decks/patios, pools, sidewalks, and compacted graveled surfaces such
as parking areas and driveways.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines illicit discharges as "any discharge to the storm
sewer system that is not composed entirely of stormwater." Illicit discharges can be from car wash
wastewater, spills from roadway accidents, failed septic systems, and improper disposal of household
toxins and detergents. These substances can either enter our waterways through direct connections or
indirect connections. It is always good to monitor the stormwater inlets near your property. If you see
someone dumping, please call the Bethlehem Township Office at 610-814-6400 or the PA DEP 24-hour
hotline at 570-826-2511.
The Stormwater Utility Fee is the result of discussions between Bethlehem Township and the
Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC). Importance of stormwater management, level of service and
stormwater needs were all considered. In addition, a list of known problems, scheduled stormwater
improvements, and future projects necessary to comply with future regulatory requirements were used
to project stormwater management expenses over the next 5 to 10 years. These overall stormwater
system costs will be divided by the impervious area in the Township to come up with the Stormwater
All residents with impervious surfaces on their property will pay a fee. The amount will differ depending
on how much impervious is on a property. The fee structure is shown HERE.
All stormwater revenue will be placed into a dedicated fund used only for Bethlehem Township's
stormwater program, such as the operation, maintenance, and improvement of stormwater
infrastructure. The funds will cover costs associated with the following:
The fee will be paid by all property owners who own developed property in the Township, whose
property has impervious surfaces (roofs, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, roads, parking lots, etc.). Non-profits will pay because it is a fee and not a property tax. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of the property and the stormwater utility fee is based on how much a property contributes to stormwater runoff. Tax-exempt properties are required to pay for other utility charges including electric, water and sewer and the stormwater utility fee is no different.
All developed properties contribute stormwater runoff and should pay the stormwater fee; however,
some properties are exempt from taxes. Unlike taxes, which are used for general services that the
Township provides, the revenue from the stormwater fee can only be used for stormwater management
and cannot be redirected for other uses.
The stormwater fee is based on the amount of impervious surface rather than assessed value, so the
cost is shifted to the properties that create more stormwater runoff. There is no correlation between
assessed values and the amount of impervious surface on a given property. This makes it unfair to base
the stormwater fee on the assessed value of the properties. An advantage of a fee-based system is that
we can offer credits to property owners who reduce the quantity of stormwater or improve the quality
of stormwater leaving their property. Bethlehem Township has developed a credit policy to provide
reductions to property owners who make improvements which assist in meeting the Federal/State
requirements. We cannot give such a credit on a tax-based system.
If you believe you are being charged for in incorrect amount of Impervious Area, you may submit an
appeal to have this information be reviewed. The Bethlehem Township Municipal Authority Credit and
Appeals Manual provides information on how to submit an appeal. Further information and applications
can be found on the Township's Stormwater Forms Section
Yes. Bethlehem Township's stormwater utility fee will allow for credits. Credits are a monthly percent reduction in the stormwater utility fee for having and maintaining infrastructure which reduces the quantity of stormwater or improves the quality of stormwater leaving a property. The Bethlehem Township Municipal Authority Credit and Appeals Manual provides further information. The credits include:
Aerial photographs of the entire Township were taken. These photos were then geometrically corrected
for the use in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. In GIS, the impervious area features were
identified and plotted throughout the Township. This information can then be utilized to determine the
amount of impervious located on each property.
All properties produce stormwater runoff that contribute to pollution and flooding downstream. Even if
your property has never flooded and/or there are no nearby storm sewers, the stormwater that flows
off your property must be managed by Bethlehem Township. Stormwater management is a community-wide service that benefits the whole Township, and the program costs need to be distributed to all residents. All property owners benefit from the management of stormwater along public streets which
they travel. The fee will also help cover other services provided by the Township, such as stormwater
system maintenance and permit compliance. Since there are additional services provided by the
Township, property owners who manage the majority of stormwater onsite will still pay a fee to help
cover the additional services provided by the Township beyond their property lines.
A new stormwater bill will be issued annually. You may elect to pay this bill quarterly using installment
coupons, or you may pay in full at a discounted rate. These bills will be mailed by Berkheimer and will
not be sent directly from the Township.
If the unoccupied property contains impervious area (vacant residential structures, empty
commercial/industrial buildings, driveway, etc.), it will be charged. These properties continue to
generate stormwater runoff just the same as an occupied property.
Undeveloped property is property that has not been altered by improvements such as buildings, parking
lots, structures, or the addition of any other impervious areas. Since there are no impervious areas on
these properties, undeveloped properties will not be charged a stormwater fee. Similarly, properties
with under 300 sf of impervious area will be treated as undeveloped properties.
Portions of the Township have had a stormwater system in place for many years; however, there are
many areas of the Township that do not have the appropriate infrastructure to handle the rainfalls we
are seeing today. In recent years, there has also been an increased emphasis on stormwater
management. New and revised state and federal regulations require a comprehensive stormwater
management program. The stormwater utility fee ensures that Bethlehem Township receives adequate
financial support to meet its responsibilities to manage the stormwater system more closely, identify
and eliminate illegal discharges, provide public education, and other regulatory requirements. The fee
will also be used to cover the cost for increased inspection and maintenance of aging infrastructure,
implementation of flood reduction projects and the ability to rehabilitate/replace infrastructure that's
reached the end of its useful life.
Property owners are not being charged for rain falling on surface. Instead, the charges apply to runoff
that's discharged into the stormwater system when it rains. As rain falls on impervious surface, it
collects pollutants. The amount of pollutants contained in stormwater can be correlated to the amount
of impervious surface on your property. Additionally, proper stormwater management is vital to
ensuring flood risk is minimized. Through the implementation of the fee, a dedicated funding source will
be in place to help manage stormwater in flood prone areas.