Pennsylvania legal claims involving storm water on your property

In Pennsylvania, there is a surface water law found in legal case law. That is, a municipality or other owner is liable for damage to an adjoining owner if that first owner or municipality artificially diverts or funnels surface water (including stormwater) to that adjoining property.

Even if there is no additional volume of water, if the rainwater is diverted resulting in a more intense or concentrated flow, then there is liability if damage occurs.

A municipality has the right to manage stormwater and protect public health and safety. However, you need to balance that with the rights of neighboring homeowners.

If a storm drain system or sewer pipes are negligently constructed so that they do not adequately control runoff, then there is liability for the damage caused.

This can be found in the Pennsylvania Stormwater Management Act (32 PS Section 680.13 et seq). The Act requires that there be a plan to manage water runoff resulting from construction that involves drainage or alteration of stormwater runoff.

If the soil disturbance of a construction project is large enough, or if the soil disturbance is close enough to a protected waterway, then a permit and / or soil erosion control plan must be submitted to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

Therefore, there are two main things to be aware of that can lead to a legal claim in Pennsylvania regarding stormwater. First. If you are doing construction that involves a great deal of soil disturbance or if you are near a stream or protected waterway, you need to determine if you need a permit and a soil erosion control plan. Second, if you own a home or land where you believe storm or surface water is being diverted onto your property with greater flow or intensity, then you may have a claim if you have consequential damages.

In the second case, if you believe that your property is being damaged, or if there is a resulting injury to a person, then you should investigate the source of the problem. If there is recent construction of sewers or any drainage system, you should check with both your local government and the PA Department of Environmental Protection. Find out what the project was and if a permit and / or soil and erosion control plan was required. Even if a permit or plan was not required, it may still be a violation of the Stormwater Management Act or Pennsylvania jurisprudence if the surface water diversion was built negligently or if it artificially funnels water at a higher flow or velocity. towards your property.

In such legal claims, there may be legal causes of action for: negligence, trespassing, nuisance, or violations of the PA Stormwater Management Act or the PA Clean Stream Act. The Clean Currents Act (35 PS Section 691.1). The Clean Currents Law allows legal claims from private citizens for runoff of pollution in a waterway. It is most often applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection or other government action against polluters.

Generally, a legal claim involving an argument that there was a negligently constructed storm drain or stormwater system or artificially channeled water runoff requires the use of an engineer. That engineer would need to inspect and possibly do a study to compile the engineering findings to support the claims.