From Surviving to Thriving -- Stormwater Infrastructure and Management: Unsafe for Human Contact

by Evan Isaacson | September 17, 2018

This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters.

As millions of Americans in Houston and throughout Florida and Puerto Rico are acutely aware, the most dangerous aspect of a hurricane is the water. In Houston, the 50 inches of water that fell over the course of a few days broke records and overwhelmed the city’s flood control system. In Florida, Hurricane Irma’s storm surge ravaged coastal communities hundreds of miles up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. And in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria dumped more than two feet of rain in some areas, generating floodwaters more than a dozen feet high in low-lying areas throughout the island.

The pathway of waterborne devastation was different for each of these storms. But as the winds faded and the waters receded, one thing that remained in each of these locations was hazardous and even lethal contaminants left behind by the floodwaters. Thousands of Americans returned to their homes and communities, wading through inches, even feet, of water that carried anything and everything that you would expect to find in sewers, basements, parking lots, and factory floors.

A top official at one of the several trade associations that lobby for municipal water and sewer systems told Bloomberg News in the wake of Irma that “there’s no sewer system in the world that can ...

Assessment Finds Wide Variety in Quality of County Stormwater Plans in Maryland

by Evan Isaacson | October 17, 2016
Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) is releasing an assessment of the plans and progress of Baltimore City and the nine largest counties in Maryland to comply with their federal stormwater permits, a key component of the ongoing effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and restore it to health. The analysis looks carefully at the jurisdictions' past efforts and future plans, revealing a wide range in the apparent commitment and level of restoration activity as they work to ...

Confusion, Frustration as Maryland High Court Hears Stormwater Permits Case

by Evan Isaacson | November 18, 2015
Last week the Maryland Court of Appeals heard several hours of oral argument in back to back (to back) cases regarding whether five different municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) complied with the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. Although divided into separate cases due to their unique procedural histories, the three cases were consolidated into one marathon oral argument due to the substantial overlap of the issues involved. The ...

Montgomery County Should Appeal Stormwater Case

by Evan Isaacson | July 27, 2015
Last Wednesday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge held that the Montgomery County Water Quality Protection Charge is invalid and that the plaintiff should not have been required to pay any stormwater fee to the county. The case could have significant ramifications across the state for jurisdictions that have, like Montgomery County, established a stormwater fee similar to the one invalidated in the case. First, some background.  In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB 987, which required any jurisdiction ...

Trading Up: A National Model for Stormwater Pollution Trading?

by Yee Huang | March 17, 2010
This week Water Policy Report (subs. required) reported on EPA’s exercise of residual designation authority (RDA) over stormwater discharges and a pilot stormwater-reduction trading program in Massachusetts. Together, these actions have the potential to significantly reduce stormwater discharges into local waterways. If successful, this pilot trading program could be a template for similar trading programs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country. Stormwater discharges occur when impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and parking lots channel high volumes ...

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