In a Frederick NEws Post letter to the editor the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supports the rain tax…
Posted: Friday, May 10, 2013 2:00 am
More pollution goes into Frederick County creeks and rivers than into the waters of any other county in Maryland, according to Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) data. About 20 percent of that comes from storm water — a swill of dog feces, lawn fertilizer, oil and gasoline residue and water that flashes off streets and parking lots when it rains.
This type of pollution is the only source of water pollution increasing in the region, especially in growing counties such as Frederick. Farmers, sewage plants and other sources are discharging less pollution than years past.
Frederick understands the value of investing in streets, water filtration plants and sewage plants. But some county officials don’t seem to want to invest in another county utility: the system of ponds, pipes and culverts that drains its landscape. As a result the antiquated system gets more expensive to upgrade each year, like a leaking roof we refuse to patch.
Contrary to a recent News-Post editorial there are no storm water “plants” that treat polluted runoff as there are plants to treat sewage. The polluted runoff mostly goes into a storm drain and straight into local creeks.
How polluted is Frederick County? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and MDE have declared most of the waters of the county officially “impaired,” including the Monocacy River, Double Pipe Creek and Catoctin Creek. Residents are cautioned not to come into contact with the water for a full 48 hours after a summer thunderstorm. How’s that work for convincing businesses to relocate to Frederick County?
This isn’t a new problem. But there is a new urgency to fix it. In fact, soon Frederick and other Maryland counties will receive new storm water permits under the federal Clean Water Act that require them to do a better job.
How to pay for it? About 1,300 jurisdictions around the country have approved some form of “storm water utility fee,” determining such fees to be the fairest and most efficient way to address this problem.
Despite popular rhetoric, these fees aren’t “rain taxes” but a fair assessment on polluters (you and me) that pays for a service the county provides. It’s fixing our parking lots, streets, driveways and other surfaces that turn rain into toxic soup.
The benefits would be substantial. In Anne Arundel County where county commissioners have approved a storm water fee, for example, the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center estimates that for every $100 million the county invests in improvements, the county will gain $220 million in economic benefits and almost 800 jobs.
By state law, Frederick can decide how much of a utility fee it wants to raise from each resident and business to begin to meet its responsibilities. Unfortunately, Frederick County Commissioners have decided their constituents can live with dirty water. They have said they will collect only 1 cent from each resident for the job. That ploy might make for a fine protest, but Frederick County will get what it pays for — likely continued unhealthy water and flooded basements. And an ever larger bill to be paid by the children and grandchildren of the county.
is Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation
FoFC received this notice from Community & Environmental Defense Services:
Construction site sediment pollution regulations
Protect All Exposed Soils 7 Days After Clearance
Among the most important new requirements is that all exposed construction site soils must be protected from erosive forces within seven days of initial clearance. For most of a site, this means all disturbed areas must be covered with a layer of mulch (straw, etc.) sufficiently thick to obscure underlying soils. An equally important new requirement is that 95% vegetative (grass) cover must be achieved.
Silt Fence & Settling Ponds Can’t Protect The Bay; Only Thick Mulch & Grass
In the past most sites might have a sparse cover of grass and mulch resulting in vast quantities of eroded soil flowing into nearby waters. It takes thick mulch and 95% cover to prevent pollution of nearby waters. Perimeter measures like black silt fence and settling ponds simply can’t retain enough mud pollution on-site. In fact, whenever you see exposed soil on a construction site, you can assume pollution will occur come the next storm. In other words: Exposed Soil = Pollution. Please report it at the Watershed Advocates Construction ES=P Database and/or to your local enforcement agency.
Sites Present Before March Must Have 95% Grass Cover By April 15th
Of course grass will not begin growing until March with another two- to four-weeks needed to achieve 95% cover. If a site was cleared prior to March, yet by April 15th you see something less than 95% grass cover then you are also witnessing a violation of one of our most important aquatic resource protection laws. Again, please report it promptly! This is the best way to ensure this new law is fully enforced and the Bay and her tributaries are fully protected.
Across the country, communities are struggling with how to fix and replace failing and outdated infrastructure and meet new demand to manage stormwater and protect clean water. American Rivers worked with the American Society of Landscape Architects, ECONorthwest, and the Water Environment Federation to release the Banking-on-Green report to build on the current understanding of the cost-effectiveness of green infrastructure and examine how these practices can increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs, reduce localized flooding, and protect public health.
Green infrastructure, which utilizes natural processes to treat stormwater, potentially offers a number of benefits over the equivalent gray infrastructure. In a report titled Economic Benefits of Green Infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay , the authors investigate the types of benefits, and where possible, quantify and value the benefits green infrastructure provides for three case studies in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They describe green infrastructure projects and their benefits in Montgomery County, MD, Washington DC, and Prince George’s County, MD.
Since June, Bruce Gilmore and Richard Klein of the Community and Environmental Defense Services (CEDS) have conducted five workshops on Environmental Site Design for Clean Water Advocates. The workshops were designed to expand the base of support for this incredibly important approach. To this end the workshops were successful. More then a hundred people registered for workshops held in Annapolis, Baltimore, Charlotte Hall, Frederick, and Saint Michaels.
About a third of the workshop attendees were volunteers and professionals with nonprofit groups. Another third were government officials some of whom review ESD plans. The remaining attendees were attorneys and consultants. At the workshops Bruce and Richard presented the following Power Points.
Richard created a checklist which simplifies the task of determining if ESD has been effectively used on a proposed development site. Users are asked to forward a copy of completed checklists to firstname.lastname@example.org – so that CEDS can monitor the implementation of ESD at the county, city and watershed level. Presently such a monitoring mechanism doesn’t exist. The following webpage provides extensive guidance for Clean Water Advocates seeking full use of Environmental Site Design on proposed development projects: ceds.org/esd. Please share this information.