Norfolk Southern sues Roanoke to avoid paying $194,000 storm water fee

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Norfolk Southern is suing the City of Roanoke for requiring the company to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in storm water fees.

The company claims its tracks that run throughout the city should not be subject to the fee.

Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers says the city is going to fight the suit in order to protect its rivers and streams.

Essentially, businesses and home owners must pay a storm water fee based on the size of surfaces on their property that don't absorb water, like cement and asphalt, but Roanoke City says, that also includes railroad tracks.

Norfolk Southern disagrees.

Right now, Norfolk Southern is refusing to pay $194,000 of storm water fees Roanoke is charging for the company's system of railroad tracks in the city.

"The City of Roanoke has imposed upon us good but stringent clean water standards, and that means every citizen, every taxpayer, every homeowner, every business, every entity of the city has to participate in solving this problem, it can't be solved by just a few of us, it has to be solved by all of us," said Bowers.

Bowers is defending the fee, and he says the state stands behind him.

"This matter went before the General Assembly of Virginia just over the last several months and the General Assembly sided with the City of Roanoke," said Bowers.

Senate Bill 468 originally included language that would exempt railroads from the fine, but that language was struck before it passed.

Now, Roanoke will have to fight the issue again, this time potentially in a court of law.

"Of course we have to defend any suit, but I'm hopeful that the railroad and the city can come to some kind of an understanding and agreement," says Bowers.

Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay $118,000 to the city for all of its other surfaces that include cement and asphalt.

Through this case, the company hopes to receive a permanent injunction, keeping the city from ever levying this fee against the company in the future.