A Little City with Big
Plans to Minimize
In addition to upgrading Pennsylvania’s first wastewater treatment plant to meet nutrient-removal
requirements, Lancaster is retrofitting streets, parks, and other areas with infrastructure that will
significantly reduce stormwater runoff.
Residents, businesses, local officials, and
nonprofits have joined together to solve
To begin, Lancaster upgraded its “gray infrastructure”—the pipes, pumps, and treatment equipment, which deal directly with
the combined sewage and stormwater—and
thus increased the capacity of the entire system. In fact, Lancaster constructed the first
wastewater treatment system in Pennsylvania
to meet new nutrient-removal requirements,
investing more than $18 million in upgrades
during the past 12 years.
the city’s 30 parks to manage water runoff.
Porous basketball courts, parking lots, and
gardens that collect and absorb stormwater
will slow and reduce runoff from adjacent
roadways. Lancaster is also increasing tree
cover significantly—even using volunteers to
plant trees—and encouraging green roofs
and rain barrels to reduce the stormwater
Home to about 60,000 residents, Lancaster
is one of the oldest inland cities in this
country and one of hundreds with an aging
combined sewer system. These systems collect and transport both sewage and
stormwater from downspouts, streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and other “hard” surfaces common in urban areas. Lancaster’s
system can manage the volume of wastewater 85 percent of the time, but intense
rainstorms overwhelm the system. On average each year, about one billion gallons of
sewage and stormwater overflow, polluting
nearby streams, the Susquehanna River, and
ultimately the Bay.
Additionally, the city has invested innovative-
ly in “green infrastructure”—a suite of efforts
that reduce the volume of stormwater enter-
ing the sewer system. For example, the city
has identified approximately 20 blocks of
streets that are scheduled for repair. Rather
than using traditional construction materials,
Lancaster will use porous pavement through
which water can seep. Over the next 25
years, some 450 blocks will be developed
similarly. Lancaster proposes to retrofit 26 of
As a result of the focus on green infrastruc-
ture, Lancaster estimates average annual
reductions of 182 million gallons of
stormwater, 252,000 pounds of suspended
solids, 4,800 pounds of total phosphorus,
and 10,700 pounds of nitrogen in the first
five years of the program.
And the icing on the cake is that the cost of
green infrastructure is significantly less than
upgrading gray infrastructure.
The City of Lancaster is becoming a model
of successful pollution reduction.