State OK’s coun­ties’ wa­ter pol­lu­tion plans

En­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates, Ho­gan dis­agree on im­pact

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Scott Dance sdance@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ss­dance

State en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials signed off Tues­day on a list of projects aimed at re­duc­ing the amount of pol­lu­tion that rain washes into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

But ad­vo­cates for the en­vi­ron­ment said the ef­forts pro­posed by the state’s 10 largest ju­ris­dic­tions are in­ad­e­quate to the job of restor­ing the es­tu­ary.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan called the plans from Bal­ti­more and the nine largest coun­ties “in­no­va­tive,” and said they prove that the stormwa­ter fee de­rided as the “rain tax” was un­nec­es­sary.

Ho­gan signed a law last year that gave ju­ris­dic­tions the op­tion not to col­lect it.

“Today’s news fur­ther il­lus­trates what many Mary­lan­ders and lo­cal of­fi­cials have al­ready known for years: the state does not need to im­pose yet an­other bur­den­some tax on home­own­ers and job cre­ators in or­der to suc­cess­fully man­age stormwa­ter runoff,” Ho­gan said in a state­ment.

A coali­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, in­clud­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, Mary­land League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers and the Sierra Club, had urged the state to re­ject the plans.

They ar­gued that lo­cal gov­ern­ments had not set aside enough money for the work, and that the projects would not elim­i­nate enough pol­lu­tion to clean up the bay.

Ali­son Prost, the bay foun­da­tion’s Mary­land ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the state had ap­proved “flawed” plans.

“Six of the county plans only com­mit to do­ing half the work that their stormwa­ter per­mit re­quires,” she said in a state­ment.

“Ur­ban and sub­ur­ban pol­luted runoff have se­verely de­graded lo­cal rivers and streams, dam­ag­ing fish and wildlife and cre­at­ing hu­man health risks,” Prost said. “Without clear and trans­par­ent plans to re­duce that pol­lu­tion it will be dif­fi­cult to re­store wa­ter qual­ity.”

Of­fi­cials from Bal­ti­more and Anne Arun­del, Bal­ti­more, Car­roll, Charles, Fred­er­ick, Har­ford, Howard, Prince Ge­orge’s and Montgomery coun­ties are re­quired to de­velop plans to com­ply with fed­eral stormwa­ter per­mits. Be­cause some coun­ties have opted not to col­lect the stormwa­ter fees, the Mary­land De­part­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment re­views the pro­pos­als to make sure they can af­ford to pay for the nec­es­sary projects.

The per­mits re­quire 20 per­cent re­duc­tions in the amount of paved sur­faces across the ju­ris­dic­tions. But gov­ern­ments are al­lowed to count other mea­sures — such as in­creased street sweep­ing — as hav­ing an equiv­a­lent ef­fect.

Anne Arun­del, Bal­ti­more, Charles, Fred­er­ick and Har­ford coun­ties pro­posed im­prove­ments to waste­water treat­ment plants to ac­count for as much as half of the re­quired pave­ment re­moval, ac­cord­ing to a state re­port.

En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Ben Grum­bles said the plans sub­mit­ted by the ju­ris­dic­tions show the ar­range­ment “pro­vides flex­i­bil­ity while de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity and re­sults.”

The en­vi­ron­men­tal coali­tion ar­gued that the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency doesn’t al­low ju­ris­dic­tions to swap in waste­water treat­ment plant im­prove­ments for pave­ment re­moval.

In a let­ter to Grum­bles in Au­gust, the coali­tion said the ju­ris­dic­tions un­der­es­ti­mated how much it will cost them to meet the pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion goals.

Bal­ti­more and the nine coun­ties pro­posed spend­ing $553 mil­lion over the next two fis­cal years on projects that help them meet the goals, the state said.

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