By Robert M. Summers
Maryland Department of the Environment
There has been a lot of discussion over the last few months in the press and the MD Legislature about Maryland’s stormwater legislation and whether or not it is reasonable to expect property owners to pay to help their county governments put in place the pollution controls needed to protect our streams, rivers, reservoirs and Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) certainly is a strong proponent of these efforts and we fully support the counties that have put their fees in place and are beginning to address stormwater pollution as required by the federal Clean Water Act.
A recent article in the Baltimore Sun (Stormwater fee flap smoothed over – With budget at stake, lawmakers agree to limit “rain tax” relief to Carroll, Frederick counties) is way off base. An editorial in the newspaper (A small win for polluters) talks of an “exemption,” which also creates the potential for confusion. What lawmakers agreed to in the closing hours of the legislative session does not provide “rain tax” relief to Carroll and Frederick County. It actually gives them the opportunity to come into compliance with existing Maryland law by entering into a formal Memorandum of Understanding with MDE that requires the county to pass an ordinance creating a source of funding to be placed in the County’s stormwater remediation fund to support County stormwater pollution control efforts. There will be no exceptions made. There will be no Memorandum of Understanding signed by MDE with either of these two Counties that does not meet the requirements of the law. The other eight counties have already taken the steps needed to protect their citizens’ water and everyone else must do their part as well.
Stormwater from the urban and suburban parts of our State is the largest uncontrolled source of the nutrients and sediment that pollutes our waters and kills aquatic life. To ensure that stormwater pollution is properly controlled, four out of MD’s ten most densely populated jurisdictions have already been issued new stormwater permits by MDE and the others are not far behind. The permits are the strongest we have ever issued, requiring the jurisdictions to install pollution controls on 20 percent of existing developed areas that do not already have modern stormwater treatment.
It is MDE’s responsibility to ensure water quality is improved and protected and we will do exactly that. Through these federal Clean Water Act required MS4 permits, we will hold these ten largest jurisdictions responsible for reaching their pollution reduction targets. The necessary stormwater projects will need to be completed and there can be no excuses that it cannot be done because of financial shortfalls.
Reducing stormwater pollution has been put off for too long. We must protect our streams, rivers, reservoirs, drinking water, Chesapeake Bay, aquatic life, fishing, swimming and recreation, for the sake of our health and that of future Maryland citizens.