Environment News Service (ENS)
Environment News Service (ENS)

Maryland Passes Tough Stormwater Runoff Controls

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (ENS) - Maryland has enacted a law that sets higher standards for new development to reduce the polluted runoff that washes off parking lots, roofs, and roads, to end up damaging streams and polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

The Stormwater Management Act of 2007 was signed into law April 24 by Governor Martin O’Malley along with 172 other bills. It requires the state Department of the Environment to adopt new regulations and a model ordinance to manage stormwater runoff.

Stormwater runoff is the fastest growing source of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater runoff also carries chemicals and other toxins into Maryland’s rivers and the bay.

Scientists suspect stormwater runoff was responsible for the cancerous lesions found on fish in the South River last summer.

'Controlling storm water is isn't sexy,' said Maryland State Senator James Rosapepe, a Democrat, the Senate sponsor of this legislation. 'But it's critical to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

'Together with strong regulations, this law can make a significant difference in saving the Bay and its tributaries,' said Rosapepe.

'It is imperative to clean up the Chesapeake Bay now,' said Delegate Jane Lawton, the House sponsor, also a Democrat. 'We’ve passed the strongest stormwater management legislation in the country and hope that the other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will follow suit.'

The conservation group Environment Maryland has presented the sponsors with certificates naming them 'Stormwater Champions.'

'This is a bill whose time has come,' said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, staff attorney for Environment Maryland. 'For a long time we have permitted development to pollute our streams and the bay, encouraging but not requiring smarter, cleaner development practices that could have protected our waters from that pollution. It is time to require cleaner development in Maryland.'

The Stormwater Management Act is a fiscally neutral bill that applies to all new major development. It requires developers to use environmental site design as the primary method for managing stormwater, and requires no net increase in runoff from a development site.

The legislation requires cities and counties to update archaic local zoning codes to allow for low impact design techniques.

In also directs the Maryland Department of the Environment to study and recommend the implementation of an appropriate fee schedule to increase enforcement of stormwater laws. The department must also create a comprehensive process for permitting development that will protect state waters from the first groundbreaking to the final stages of development and beyond.

Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Cindy Schwartz said, 'You know you’re doing something right when you’ve got environmentalists, home builders, counties, and local residents working together to solve a serious problem.'

'From an economic standpoint, it’s a no-brainer,' she said. 'These standards are cheaper for developers to implement and cheaper for taxpayers because they prevent pollution in the first place. This will be a big step forward for the Bay.'

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