The State of Maryland will change the way it requires developers to prevent pollution at construction sites from running into local rivers and streams.
The changes were call for by a coalition of environmental groups represented by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic.
The coalition, which includes Potomac Riverkeeper as well as 11 other Maryland Waterkeeper organizations and the Waterkeeper Alliance, announced today that it has reached an agreement with Maryland’s Department of the Environment over its challenge to Maryland’s general stormwater permit for construction sites.
Ed Merrifield, the Potomac Riverkeeper, says the settlement proves that ordinary citizens—and groups like Potomac Riverkeeper that represent them—can take a stand and improve their local water quality.
“These types of improvements don’t just happen” Merrifield said. “Ordinary citizens hold governments accountable—it’s the best way to make a difference.”
The settlement will mitigate polluted runoff (known as “stormwater”) at construction sites in three ways:
* it requires MDE to update the measures that must be taken on construction sites to prevent water pollution
* it requires MDE to ensure expanded opportunities for the public to review and comment upon planning documents for construction sites
* it improves protections for water bodies that are already overwhelmed by polluted runoff
Polluted runoff usually leaves construction sites in the form of mud and sludge during periods of heavy rain and runs into storm drains or directly into water bodies. In some locations, such as Cumberland and Washington DC, the mud and sludge drains into combined sewers (that hold both rainwater and raw sewage) and, if it rains (in some areas more than 1/10 of 1”), overwhelm the combined sewers and flow directly into the Potomac River and its tributaries without first being treated.
Scientists estimate that runoff adds 80 million tons of sediment to waterways each year. In Maryland alone, 90 rivers and streams have been officially designated as “impaired” due to excessive sediment.
“Polluted runoff is one of the biggest threats to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay,” Merrifield added. “This settlement today is one more step toward restoring these national treasures.”