Acting Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) Minutes - July 11, 2018

Charlestown Township
Acting Environmental Advisory Council (EAC)
Great Valley Middle School
Minutes of Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Minutes recorded for meeting on July 11th, 2018 at the Great Valley High School Library, 225 N. Phoenixville Pike, Malvern, PA 19355. Meeting was held from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Attendees were Carol Armstrong, Richard Findlay, Veda Maany, Daniel Walker, Victoria Laubach (Exec. Dir. of Green Valley Watershed Assoc., Chair of West Vincent EAC), Paul and Pat Stevens (Residents).

Apologies from Pete Goodman and Greg Nesspor.

The meeting was called to order at 6 pm with Carol Armstrong in the Chair.

Minutes of Previous meeting:

These had been previously circulated and reviewed electronically. Veda suggested a grammatical correction. Richard made a motion approve the minutes and Dan Walker second that motion.

Discussion with Victoria Laubach:

Victoria first explained history of Green Valley Watershed Association (GVWA), first established in 1964 as French Creek Watershed Association, then in the 1970’s expanded into other watersheds (Pigeon, Pickering, Valley Creeks and Stony Run, cover northern Chester County). Two focuses of their mission are watershed protection and environmental education. For watershed protection there is the Schuylkill Water Stewards program - volunteers that collects water samples for monitoring; also GIS work, and working with farms in the area to educate about best management practice on the farms.

In this area of Charlestown, they work with Pickering and Valley Creek watersheds including basin work at Penn State Great Valley campus and Immaculata University.

The organization started out grassroots working with people to inform them and help them correct certain issues rather than being punitive like an enforcement agency such as the EPA and DEP. This is especially important with farmers. GVWA helps farmers obtain funding to help with best management practices, i.e. keep animals separate from streams. They also work with schools in the area. For instance, GVWA assisted Phoenixville to install riparian buffers and rain gardens. 900 trees were planted by high school students working with young children at the early education center. This is both beneficial for the environment, and nurtures human connection with nature.

GVWA is also involved with William Penn Foundation Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), which is across 4 states (NJ, Delaware, NY, and PA). The initiative identified areas to focus funding to protect and improve water quality. Specifically, in Chester County there are the Brandywine-Christina, and Schuylkill Highlands cluster focus areas. Northern Chester County is highly regarded for its high water quality- likely due to the mixed landscape with large areas of open space. This is largely due to the hard work imparted by land conservation organization such as French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust and Natural Lands Trust.

In Charlestown area, Pigeon Run is a focus area. There is a little stream tributary to Pigeon Run located in Brightside community farm owned by the township, where GVWA believes there could be improvement in the buffer zone. They also recommend planting nut and fruit trees so that the farm could keep the land in production while improving water quality in the stream, and the trees would also benefit pollinators. This is something Charlestown EAC could investigate.

Victoria then shifted gears to speak from her 15 years of experience working with West Vincent EAC for which she sits as the chair. She described their various projects over the years, such as the clean energy community campaign where ultimately 20 % of residents signed up for clean energy. They also started an adopt a solar panel initiative for their township building to achieve 20 % renewable energy for their own use. Other projects involved advocating for bird protection, a demonstration garden at the township building, creating a grant-funded Greenways Lands Stewardship Guide, and working with homeowner’s associations to enhance greenways using grant funding. At the township building, a demonstration planting was done with much work accomplished by an eagle scout as well as volunteers.

Victoria had some suggestions for Charlestown EAC:

  1. Look into Brightside farm and improve buffer around the tributary to pigeon run. GVWA can assist with funding and design.
  2. If Charlestown township is looking to relocate to a new township building, then this is a great opportunity to start an adopt a solar panel initiative to have the township commit to renewable energy. Also, could start a native garden demonstration. This could be discussed with the parks and recreational planning commission.
  3. Create projects for business volunteer groups around the Valley Creek watershed where there are lots of businesses, i.e. Vanguard, Siemens, etc. These businesses have green teams that are easily engage with projects near where they work.
  4. Stream cleanups and buffer plantings. PennDOT has a website where you can request free supplies for cleanups such as trash bags, vest, etc.
  5. Apply for grants to fund some of these projects such as the Tree Vitalize grant for buffer plantings, DRWI Schuylkill Highland mini grants, and grants offered by Natural Land Trust.
  6. We are welcomed to use GVWA as a resource to help Charlestown EAC.

In 2017, the partners in the Schuylkill Highlands Cluster of William Penn Foundation’s DRWI came up with a plan for the next 3 years of funding. The primary focus is land conservation but also storm water control and agricultural restoration. The Foundation wanted to focus on specific areas so there are 11 focus areas in northern Chester County. One focus is Pigeon Run. There is already a lot land conservation so we are looking for other ways to keep and improve water quality, such as Bryn Coed in West Vincent, and in West and East Pikeland, where there are a lot of tributary streams. It’s mostly all agriculture and there are plans to reforest it.

We discussed the impacts of development on the health of our waters downstream. The Pickering is a high-quality watershed. It has a high IBI (Index of biological Integrity- a measurement of ability to support aquatic life). Township ordinances can play an important role to protect and maintain this high quality. They have authority to enact regulation through state standards. For example, Chapter 102 of PA code requires a 150-foot riparian buffer. Residents may have concerns about losing acreage to plantings for buffer zones. DCNR has developed a working buffer model for stream protection and no loss of land for production and income. With regards to using tree buffers and fencing to keep farming animals out of streams, research shows that cows themselves are healthier, as well as the stream, if kept out of the stream.

The idea is to have a positive message. We so have great quality streams and therefore are more motivated to protect them.

Victoria was thanked by EAC members, and she reiterated that she is available to help, especially with funding.

Other Issues:

This spring there was a tremendous amount of rainfall. There was flooding and sediment and erosion accumulation from construction sites- even with best management practices. Now that severe rains and chances of flooding are increasing, can we partner with other government and watershed groups to make recommendations for DEP to establish better standards to manage sediment run-off and erosion from short-term rainfall 500- and 1000-year rainfalls on construction sites? The silt-socks now used for cover are not adequate.

What EAC can do:
discuss with Township and township engineers.

Identify Eagle Scout Projects for and within the Township:

Now that we have a good idea on what qualifies, the EAC should select 2 suggestions to contribute to the excellent list compiled by Parks & Rec. Richard will send out an email to EAC members to vote on which 2 projects are best, and then forward to Parks and Recreation.

Naming of unnamed streams in Charlestown:

A hard copy of a current map was distributed and shows what is unnamed. We will review the work that Schuylkill township did to name the unnamed tributaries in their town with Tom Heisey and Steven Kunz when they attends the August EAC meeting. Questions for him are when a tributary like Pigeon run has multiple little tributaries itself, at what point do you stop naming branches. We will also discuss how this mapping information can be useful for our township.

Adelphia Gateway pipeline valve construction –

we have an update on resident addresses within the right of way. How do we engage these residents and inform them about the project and safety concerns.

FERC has not responded to Pete or Carol.

What EAC can do:
Veda will discuss with Lynda Farrell from Pipeline Safety Coalition — about any suggestions on outreach. Through the township website we have not yet received concerns from specific residents; Linda Csete will compile the of these correspondences and send to the EAC.

Plastic bag ban:

Information from D. Findlay’s discussion with Andrew Motel of the Planning Commission - this was issue was visited 5-6 yrs ago. Some retail would be affected, but there is insufficient retail in Charlestown for this ban to be meaningful, and that this condition persists today. Our focus will be educating people. Right now there is momentum about regulating plastic straws. PA has a big plastics industry-so this is a political issue as well. We can just talk with merchants directly. Start grassroots.

What EAC can do:
Richard will approach Wegman’s about donating reusable bags to distribute at Charlestown day. Carol offered to approach businesses themselves, e.g., The Office, Dunkin Donuts, and P.J. Whelihans.

New Business:

Request from Hugh Willig of BoS for research on turnpike sound wall:

Charlestown resident Paul and Pat Stevens presented the background on efforts to appeal to the Turnpike Commission to build a sound wall along the strip abutting Charlestown residents as they plan to expand lanes. Mr. Stevens elaborated how noise as a pollutant was under regulation by the EPA originally, however noise pollution was transitioned to be regulated by states. PA Turnpike Authority, which is an autonomous agency, has a formula on which they base their decisions to build a sound wall that is based on the concentration of residents. Mr. Stevens would like to mobilize other residents who see this as a problem to speak up as construction to expand is set to start in the fall of 2018. We suggested that he also speak to our senators as well.

Community Education Series of Presentations

on environmental topics for the residents of Charlestown: We discussed starting to compile a list of topics for now, for instance plastic bags topic. We aim to have presentations created over the next several months.
What EAC can do:
Ask Linda Csete if she has any further information from PennDot. Also we can contact the PennDot regional manager for more information.

Removing mile a-minute invasive vines:

Sue Staas is organizing groups to go through hiking paths and parks to remove this invasive vine. This is the perfect time for definitive removal.
What EAC can do:
Dan and Carol have volunteered to help. Carol will contact Sue to let her know.

Other Updates:

There were no specific updates reported from Parks & Recreation, BoS, Planning Commission (meeting was canceled), or historical Commission.

Next Meeting:

August 8th at 6 pm we will be meeting with Tom Heisey of Schuylkill EAC. We will discuss their project of naming streams. We will also discuss our table/display for Charlestown Day.