Stormwater and Planning in the Borough

“What lies on the ground does not necessarily stay on the ground”

The 2017 Media Borough Stormwater Master Plan, as you may know from previous Newsletters (see April and July issues), outlines a comprehensive strategy to address the problems of stormwater runoff in Media; specifically, flooding and pollution of our local water.  How significant are these problems to Media and how seriously does Borough Council take them? You may have read the recent discomforting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the big city’s problems with stormwater overflow and sewage leakage and wondered, can that happen here? 

Philadelphia Stormwater picture
The Philadelphia Water Department is working to ameliorate its runoff problems with Green City, Clean Waters, a 25-year plan to reduce combined sewer overflows and improve water quality within the city of Philadelphia by implementing green infrastructure projects that will capture and infiltrate over one-third of the city’s stormwater from impervious surfaces.

The answer is no.  Media does not have these kinds of problems because unlike Philadelphia, we do not have a Combined Sewer Overflow system [CSO], in which the storm sewers are directed into the same system as the sanitary sewers.   Media Borough’s storm and sanitary sewer systems are completely separate from each other. Aqua, PA, treats our sanitary sewage.  Our stormwater, however—at least that which does not infiltrate into the ground, flows directly into the Ridley Creek, sweeping pollutants and fertilizers from roads and lawns into our drinking water supply. 

This is why we do not pour paint down our storm sewer inlets, and it is the most important reason for the dog waste signs we see all over town.  Media residents are remarkably conscientious about picking up after their dogs, no doubt thinking:  “If we don’t dispose of it, we drink it.”  Ok, ok, our drinking water IS thoroughly processed by the Aqua PA Water Treatment Facility, but still it is not a great thought…

And, we do have contact with this stormwater flow before it reaches the Aqua PA Facility.  Think, for instance, of your child stomping into a mud puddle on a rainy day.  All of us want to be able to wade in Ridley Creek—right?   And we all have to walk through flooded streets in periods of heavy rainfall.

When stormwater pollution threatens the health of our waterways, we all pay, eventually.  The dirtier the water is when it arrives at the Aqua PA facility, the more expensive it is to process, and the more our water bills go up.   

As illustrated in the Stormwater Master Plan, the answers to the problem of stormwater pollution lie with both individuals and government.  They include:

  1. Dispose of polluting substances properly to make sure they do not enter the watershed system
  2. Continue to pick up after your dog 
  3. Focus on maintaining and expanding infiltrative surfaces on your property and in your town (Soil is nature’s own very effective water treatment system, filtering pollutants and silt out of stormwater before it reaches Ridley Creek)
  4. Plant trees (Trees reduce runoff by capturing rainfall in their canopies, allowing it to evaporate or drip to the ground slowly enough so that it can be absorbed.  The roots of one mature tree can absorb more than 1000 gallons of stormwater per year).
  5. Choose transportation that pollutes less (Walking, biking, public transit, gas-efficient automobiles)
  6. Plan for traffic efficiencies that relieve congestion and reduce the duration of automobile travel

What is Media Borough doing about any of this?  First of all, the borough has a robust Chapter 251 Stormwater Management Ordinance that covers private development, municipal projects and homeowners and requires infiltrative features in all new development.  

Secondly, the recommendations of our Stormwater Master Plan have “infiltrated” borough planning, addressing item #3 above.   The borough has two “green infrastructure” projects in the works for 2019-20.  Plans are now being developed for infiltrative stormwater mitigation at Ridge Road and N. Olive Street;  planning will soon be underway for a project on W. Jefferson Street—future Newsletters will provide information on this project.  Our recent park plans—Veterans Square Garden, 5th & Broomall Park and Plum Street Mall—all address local stormwater issues with features such as raingardens and infiltrative tree trenches.

As for #4, Media is a “Tree City, USA” and our Shade Tree Commission protects, maintains and expands the tree population of the borough.  Residents may request trees to be planted in the strip between the sidewalk and street in front of their homes by contacting Jeff Smith, Borough Manager, at

Our Connecting the Sidewalk project addresses item #5 above by making walking an easier and safer local alternative to driving.  Our Wayfinding Project will help visitors find their way to Media destinations, addressing #6 above.

Climate change is forcing municipalities all over the country to plan for increased and more severe flooding.  Media Borough is no exception, and our government is paying attention.

Why is a strong stormwater ordinance important?  Consider the devastation of the city of Houston during Hurricane Harvey.  Any city would have been overwhelmed by Harvey, but Houston lacks a zoning code and developers are not required to use stormwater management techniques like green areas to absorb rainwater or retention ponds.  The flooding resulted in billions of dollars in damages and loss of life


The Stormwater Master Plan was made possible by funding from the Growing Greener program of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.  

This article was written with help from Kevin Matson of McCormick Taylor, Media Borough Engineer and Walt Cressler, Chester Ridley Crum Creek Watersheds Association board member.