State grants to help flooding, water pollution problems around Westmoreland, region | TribLIVE.com
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Stephen Huba
Turtle Creek, east of Lillian Avenue in Murrysville. State environmental protection officials received a report of a “frothy, turquoise sheen” on the creek on Aug. 7, which they attributed to acid mine drainage.

A new round of state grants from the Mariner East 2 settlement will fund projects that address flooding, water pollution and stormwater runoff in six Westmoreland County communities, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday.

The grants come from the $12.6 million civil penalty assessed against Sunoco in February for permit violations related to building the natural gas pipeline across Pennsylvania.

Of the 61 grants awarded Tuesday, seven went to communities in Westmoreland County and one to Allegheny County. The Westmoreland County projects cover Derry Township, Rostraver, Delmont, Murrysville, Hempfield and Penn Township, while the Allegheny County project covers Elizabeth Township.

“One thing that all of these projects have in common is that they will improve Pennsylvania’s water — whether that is through reducing runoff pollution, restoring watersheds or other means,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Derry Township received two grants – one for $250,000 to reduce stormwater runoff pollution to Sulfur Run and another for $195,500 for wetland construction along Lower Saxman Run, according to the DEP.

“We’re happy to get the grant because that helps greatly to expand this (Sulfur Run project) to more areas,” said township Supervisor Dave Slifka. The Sulfur Run project is further along than the Lower Saxman Run project.

Derry Township officials are looking for ways to mitigate the effect of heavy rains and flash flooding in the area.

“This won’t solve it, but it will help,” Slifka said. “The worst thing of all is the heavy storms that bring two to three inches of rain in an hour.”

Township supervisors want to develop a bioretention pond on the grounds behind the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center to help corral and slow down water runoff before it makes it downhill to the area of Raymond Avenue.

Elsewhere, the grants will fund projects addressing stream bank erosion and runoff pollution along Turtle Creek in Delmont ($114,500) and Murrysville ($63,270). The latter project is being spearheaded by the Westmoreland Conservation District.

“We have applied for various projects, all of which were focused on water quality, reducing flooding and protecting streams,” said Jim Pillsbury, a hydraulic engineer with the conservation district.

One grant will fund stream bank stabilization efforts on Turtle Creek along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail , portions of which were closed in September because of heavy rains and flooding. Conservation efforts along Turtle Creek and the bicycle and walking trail have been centered on preventing erosion and controlling the flow of stormwater, Pillsbury said.

“We’ve already done a lot of bank stabilization along Turtle Creek, so this is just a continuation of that,” he said. “Stream bank erosion is one of the largest causes of stream pollution. … If we can prevent or reduce stream bank erosion, that contributes significantly to water quality.”

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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