Friday, July 13, 2012

Baltimore Clean Water Permit a Prince George's Issue Too

The Clean Water Act is among the best bills ever passed by Congress to protect the health of our communities. The basic goal is "fishable and swimmable" waterways, which are places where children can play and adults can fish without fear of illness. Sadly, few places in Prince George's County meet this standard of public health.
Red shaded areas represent biologically degraded streams in Prince George's County
A major source of water pollution in the county is stormwater runoff, which occurs when rain falls on roofs, roads, and parking lots, carrying chemicals, sediment, and other pollutants directly into our creeks. To get a handle on this problem, the Clean Water Act regulates storm sewer systems through a permitting process for local governments. Prince George's County and other large Maryland jurisdictions are issued these "MS4 permits" on 5 year cycles, and nine of these permits are currently expired and up for renewal by the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE).

MDE has elected to create just one "template" permit for all of the expired jurisdictions, and the first of these new permits was just issued for the city of Baltimore. Community advocates have taken issue with aspects of the permit and groups from around Maryland are pushing back because of the bad precedent the Baltimore permit could set for the rest of the state. Healthy Prince George's members are working with groups like Blue Water Baltimore, who issued a statement indicating the following flaws in the permit:

  • Fails to require that pollution discharges adhere to already-established limits for such things as bacteria, nutrients and metals, making it harder to achieve water-quality goals.
  • Does not require Baltimore City to use updated best practices to control storm water pollution. This will allow the city to continue to rely on outdated practices that are ineffective and expensive to maintain, such as the use of storm water retention ponds.
  • Would require significantly less monitoring of pollution in streams throughout Baltimore than needed to determine compliance. The draft permit would require in-stream pollution testing in only one stream.
  • Lacks specific and enforceable goals for reducing the amount of pollution being discharged.
If this is what MDE has in store for Prince George's County, we need to let them know that we expect and deserve better for our community's health and quality of life.

There is a hearing on the Baltimore permit August 7, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at the Maryland Department of the Environment, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230. Members of Healthy Prince George's will be speaking out and we hope you will join us! And as always, stay tuned here for updates. 

Click for more Maps of Impaired Waterways in Prince George's County


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