Nine Maryland county governments and Baltimore were required by state law to establish pollution control fees to reduce pollution running off streets, parking lots, and other surfaces, called stormwater. The deadline was July 1.
Carroll County just said no. They refused to comply. Perhaps local officials wanted to make an anti-government statement of protest. Perhaps they didn’t feel like they had any significant problems with runoff pollution they had to worry about, beyond those addressed by a local program they already run.
Whatever the reason, it is now quite clear that Carroll County has a serious problem with runoff pollution that demands additional attention. The Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks last week closed boat rentals in the reservoir at Piney Run Park because of a toxic algal bloom. The likely cause was runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen in fertilizers from lawns or farms, according to the Carroll County Times.
Signs have been raised around the 300-acre lake in Sykesville. The notices warn people that the presence of toxic algae means they should not touch the water, or allow their pets near it. People who come in contact with the polluted waters are being warned to wash themselves with soap and water immediately. Anglers are advised to wash any fish they catch thoroughly, and to avoid eating the organs.
This is not only a quality of life problem. It is a potential health risk. And it is the kind of problem that could potentially be addressed through a more aggressive stormwater pollution control program that would be funded through a stormwater pollution control fee (if Carroll County had followed the law and created a fee).
The lesson here is that controlling runoff -– like the pollution in Piney Run reservoir -– is not just important for the Chesapeake Bay. Making investments in clean water and following the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint are also critical for streams, rivers, and lakes across the region, and also for you and me.
This is a backyard issue for everyone. And it now has folks in Carroll County up to their necks in frustration.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photos by Tom Zolper of Chesapeake Bay Foundation)