County gets permit to improve stormwater management
First estimated to cost $74 million; improvements now check in at $13 million to comply with state mandate
State-mandated stormwater management regulations that were initially expected to cost up to $74 million by 2025 are still set to be implemented, but with a much lower price tag.
During a meeting with the St. Mary’s County commissioners Tuesday, John Deatrick, director of St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation, was authorized to submit a notice of intent to the Maryland Department of the Environment, signaling the county’s intent to comply with the municipal separate storm sewer system permit, known as MS4, from MDE.
Since part of the county is included in a federal urban area, the county is required to adhere to storm water regulations as required under the federal Clean Water Act. The county has worked for several years to apply for the permit, which will improve water quality by reducing pollutants in stormwater discharge.
“This is one of the joys of growth in the county,” Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said during the meeting. “Once you get to a certain population level, the Maryland bureaucracy decides to come down and help you run your lives.”
Before the permit was issued in April, county officials submitted their concerns over the scope of work required by the permit and the estimated $74 million cost associated with it.
In January, MDE staff notified county officials of a change in permit conditions to address some of the commissioners’ concerns, effectively reducing the regulated impervious area and allowing the county to credit restoration projects outside of the urbanized area, which mostly encompasses Lexington Park.
Reducing the number of acres of impervious surface brings the estimated price down to a preliminary cost of $13 million.
Initially, the county would have been required to restore impervious surfaces to allow for infiltration across the county over 11,000 acres. That has now been reduced to just 2,400 acres of land within the urbanized area.
Public works will also have to retrofit stormwater management facilities to bring them up to 2001 standards to mitigate pollutants in the discharge.
The county is required to restore 20 percent of the 2,400 acres of impervious surface in Lexington Park by 2025, and to restore areas of private development, including stormwater retention ponds operated by homeowners’ associations.
Morgan said “numerous HOAs” have told him they can’t afford to upgrade their stormwater management systems, he said, but added that the county will work to help them with the “problems that are being passed down by the state.”
Public works will go after “every grant we can” to cover the costs, Deatrick said.
“I’ve seen some counties decimated by this MS4 permit,” Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) said. The estimated $13 million “is a lot of money, but it’s a deal,” he added.
Public works now has one year to draft a restoration plan, and has until 2025 to install the improvements.