Navy depot, Hampden Township debate stormwater fees

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Navy depot in Mechanicsburg just installed the largest rain garden in the United States Navy. The bio-retention facility, as it’s more formally known, will collect and filter stormwater on the base before it pollutes waterways.

The unveiling is amidst a conflict between the Navy and Hampden Township. In October, the ABC27 Investigators revealed the Navy owes Hampden Township hundreds of thousands of dollars in stormwater management fees, according to the township.

We looked into where things stand now.

“We’re still negotiating with the Navy,” township commissioner Al Bienstock said.

“We’re still working through it, and in fact, the lawyers have been having their dialogue,” said Capt. Rudy Geisler, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg.

A year ago, Hampden Township implemented a stormwater fee on its residents and businesses to keep up with federal clean water standards. The Navy was asked to pay for its contributions, too, but refused. Navy officials say the Mechanicsburg base has its own stormwater management techniques and the township is overcharging.

“The Department of Defense has its process with stormwater fees and the township has their own,” Geisler said.

A good example is the new $4 million rain garden NSA Mechanicsburg just unveiled in the middle of its base; the largest in the Navy. It’s a huge project even Hampden Township is proud of.

“It’s a great effort on their part,” Bienstock said, “one that I’m delighted they undertook.”

But that does mean the two groups have sifted through all the dirt?

“It was simply a matter of – we had a set formula based on the amount of impervious surface in every installation and for fairness felt that the Navy, PennDOT, everyone, all should pay on the same basis,” Bienstock said.

The Navy agrees but believes it was overcharged for runoff into the township.

“We have some areas where we have agreements on,” Geisler said, “and the technical folks … are meeting with the township folks to see how much we are actually contributing to the stormwater issues in the township.”

But for a minute, both parties put the ongoing battle behind to celebrate something big for everyone.

“We’re not done,” Geisler said, referring to the first rain garden project. “I got another $2 million in projects planned over the next couple of years to ultimately where most of this stormwater coming to this base, we’re going to treat.”

Lawyers are still negotiating their dispute.

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