(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) filed a Notice of Appeal on Friday, Jan. 16 with the Circuit Court of Howard County notifying the court that CBF intends to challenge the Maryland Department of the Environment's (MDE) new stormwater permit for Howard County. CBF also will file similar notices this week announcing intended challenges of new MDE permits for Carroll, Charles, Frederick and Harford counties. The focus of these suits is on MDE's failure to properly draft permits that comply with state and federal law, not any action by the counties.
"Polluted runoff is a significant source of pollution to many of the creeks and rivers in these suburban counties. Runoff causes closed swimming areas, local flooding, and public health threats as well as, other problems. Some of these five counties are making a significant effort to reduce this pollution, but as written the permits issued by MDE are too vague to ensure progress. Like good businesses, counties want clear expectations. The permits do not provide that clarity," said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF.
For years the federal Clean Water Act has required heavily populated urban and suburban counties to reduce polluted runoff. The law requires Maryland to issue a new stormwater permit every five years to each jurisdiction in the state with a population of 100,000 or more. The permit must define in concrete terms how the jurisdiction will achieve mandated reductions in polluted runoff over the coming five years. Nine counties and Baltimore City are subject to the law. MDE administers the permits, officially called Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits.
Many of the 10 jurisdictions in Maryland fell well short of MDE goals established in previous stormwater permits. Often, the lack of progress was due to vague permit goals, and insufficient funding by the jurisdictions.
MDE issued new permits over the past month to Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford and Howard counties. Despite repeated objections by CBF and other groups, the new MDE permits are still too vague to ensure progress.
"To their credit, some of these five counties are now collecting a fee from homeowners and businesses which is dedicated solely to reducing polluted runoff. This is a big step forward. But citizens have a right to know their money is being well spent. These permits don't spell out specific water quality improvements, and don't require sufficient water monitoring, among other deficiencies. Without that information, the permits don't ensure accountability. They also don't ensure that Maryland and the counties will receive credit for local and Bay clean-up efforts from the federal government," Prost said.
This past year CBF also challenged a new MDE stormwater permit for Anne Arundel County. Other environmental groups challenged permits issued to Montgomery, Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Prince George's County. Those cases are all working their way through county circuit courts.