Last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law requiring the state’s 10 largest municipalities to tackle the only source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay that continues to grow: suburban and urban runoff.
It was good policy and common sense. And almost all of the counties and Baltimore City complied and created runoff control fees, which are used to build systems that collect and treat this pollution.
But Carroll County did not.
In response, the Maryland Attorney General’s office is now threatening to fine Carroll County up to $10,000 per day for not meeting the requirements of the law, according to a report by the Associated Press and WBAL radio in Baltimore.
And state officials are also criticizing Frederick County for not doing enough to reduce pollution. Frederick County passed a runoff control fee, but set it at one penny per property, per year.
Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment, Dr. Robert Summers, recently wrote to the Frederick County Commission President, saying the 1 cent fee (which would raise a total $487 a year) is not nearly enough to build the pollution control projects required.
It’s not yet clear what steps the state may take next in these cases.
But one thing is clear: It makes no sense for these counties to resist investing money to clean up their own local streams. Building runoff control projects creates jobs for local construction workers and engineers. These clean water projects also improve the local quality of life and raise local property values.
County officials who resist following the Maryland runoff pollution law call it "silly" and a waste of taxpayer money. But this is not a matter of wasting taxpayer money. It is money invested to solve serious local water pollution problems. Runoff pollution control fees collected locally will be spent in the communities where they were collected. The money will go into projects such as installing roadside gardens that collect and filter rain water, planting trees along streams, and building ponds full of wetlands plants that absorb and filter runoff so it won't kill fish and contaminate streams.
Controlling runoff pollution is not only a good idea. It also required by EPA pollution limits and the states plans for meeting these targets, called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
So all counties and cities should get on board, and contribute their fair share to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
To learn more about the Clean Water Blueprint, click here.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photo from the South River Federation)