In June, Earthjustice was dismayed when the Maryland Department of the Environment put out a proposal that failed to adequately reduce pollution from Baltimore Harbor. Tina Meyers of the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, who we work with on this issue, said:
The Baltimore City stormwater pollution permit is meant to regulate the pollution that is discharging directly from Baltimore City’s stormwater pipes into our rivers, streams and Harbor. Unfortunately, this permit lacks limits on the amount of pollution that is allowed to go into our waterways and also lacks enforceable deadlines by which these limits must be reached.
Well, it turns out we aren’t the only ones who are upset.
More than 300 citizens and business owners from Baltimore sent formal comments to MDE about the deficient proposed water pollution permit, contending that stormwater pollution degrading the harbor is affecting their livelihood and businesses.
At a public hearing, citizens and business owners voiced their issues with the pollution. Judd Anderson is director of Youth Rowing at the Baltimore Rowing Club and spoke of the children he takes out on the Middle Branch and having to explain to them why there is trash and wastewater debris everywhere from the stormwater system–including dangerous items such as hypodermic needles. He reminded MDE that other cities have successfully cleaned up their waterways enough to hold triathlons. He asked MDE, “Why not Baltimore?”
Under Maryland law and the federal Clean Water Act, water pollution permits are required to ensure that all permitted pollution discharges comply with the standards adopted by Maryland for protection of the state’s waters. After reviewing the permit, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper and Earthjustice concluded that the permit falls far short of legal requirements and fails to live up to Maryland’s commitment to clean up its share of pollution impairing the Chesapeake Bay. Both groups have been working with state environmental officials to improve the draft permit, and also submitted formal comments about its deficiencies.
In a Baltimore Sun article that was published at the time of the proposal, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson admitted that controlling stormwater runoff was a significant and growing source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
The article also notes that Maryland state officials said they intend to use Baltimore’s stormwater permit as a “template for similar permits to be issued to Maryland’s other large communities over the next several months, so requirements in those other permits are unlikely to be any stronger.”
If that is the case — that others are looking at the Harbor as an example–the permit must be stronger. Baltimore residents deserve it.