Stormwater_flowing_wide.jpg
Feb. 15, 2021 by David Flores, Katlyn Schmitt

It's Time to Update Maryland's Outdated Water Pollution Laws

As a coastal state, Maryland is especially vulnerable to climate and ocean change — but important environmental protections are woefully out of date, endangering Marylanders' health, safety, economic welfare, and natural resources.

Maryland could take a step to rectify that this year. State lawmakers are advancing important legislation that would bring outdated water pollution rules up to speed and protect Marylanders and the environment.

Senate Bill 227 would require stormwater design standards and permits to reflect current rainfall patterns and put the state on a trajectory to assess and regularly update them in the future. We need appropriately designed stormwater practices to capture and treat greater rainfall volumes to reduce pollutants, like nitrogen and phosphorus, that contaminate water when it rains. And we need the standards to mitigate flooding and other physical impacts.

Hurricanes are increasing in frequency, size, strength, and rainfall volume, and they're following increasingly northward tracks into the mid-Atlantic.

Sea levels are rising, causing billions in property and road damages. In Maryland, levels are likely to rise between 0.8 and 1.6 feet — and possibly as much as two feet — by 2050. One foot of rise alone over that period would cost the state $2.5 billion …

Sept. 17, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
Stormwater_flowing_wide.jpg

This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report.

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 …

April 13, 2017 by Evan Isaacson
baltimore-park-pond-wide.jpg

The City of Baltimore is wrapping up an $800 million upgrade of its largest sewage treatment plant. At the same time, the city is starting a $160 million project to retrofit a drinking water reservoir; is in the midst of a $400 million project to realign a major section of its sewer system; and is spending several million on projects throughout the city to manage polluted runoff from its streets and other paved surfaces.

And these are just a few of the city's many infrastructure projects to upgrade drinking water and wastewater facilities, improve the systems of pipes that deliver clean water to homes and, separately, sewage to their treatment plants, and begin to deal with the thousands of acres of pavement that channel filthy water into the city's harbor.

Managing our need for water is both expensive and complicated. If you consider the challenge involved in …

Dec. 8, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
Stormwater_sewer_wide.jpg

Over the last couple of months, a pair of actions taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrate the glacial pace of federal stormwater management policy under the Clean Water Act. In October, EPA rejected a series of petitions by a group of environmental organizations to expand regulatory protections for certain urban waterways. Then last month, EPA issued a new national rule clarifying existing urban water quality regulations, but only because it was forced to respond to a federal court decision now more than a dozen years old.

Let's start with the good news, however minor it may be. The new stormwater rule that EPA released in November is primarily procedural in nature. The issue at hand is when the public should be able to provide input to EPA and the states regarding the issuance of permits to their towns and cities that regulate polluted …

Nov. 18, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
ches-bay-home_wide.jpg

Last week, the Center for Progressive Reform co-hosted a symposium with the University of Maryland School of Law entitled "Halftime for the Bay TMDL." The symposium was supposed to be about what states, cities, counties, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industry, and citizens can do to accelerate progress in the second half of the 15-year Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort. However, participants decided that it was equally important to discuss the potentially alarming prospects facing future Bay progress when a new administration and Congress take control next year.

Given that the conference was held one day after the election, it is no surprise that the agenda was partially hijacked by the need to answer big questions about the very future of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Attendees readily identified some threats to the Bay TMDL, such as the pending congressional effort to …

Oct. 17, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
Stormwater_flowing_wide.jpg

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 restore their urban and suburban environments and address polluted runoff from impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots.

Several jurisdictions like Montgomery and Prince George's counties have a long history of innovative stormwater management work and submitted relatively strong plans. Other jurisdictions, however, did not produce plans that meet their legal obligations to identify enough stormwater projects to satisfy their permits. Some jurisdictions, like Frederick and Harford …

May 18, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
waterdrop_wide.jpg

Clean water: We can't take it for granted, as the people of Flint, Michigan, can attest. And they're not alone. In too many communities across the nation, drinking water fails to meet minimum safety standards, forcing consumers to buy bottled water and avoid the stuff coming out of their taps.

We cannot say that we didn't see this coming. Part of the problem is that, as a society, we have always undervalued clean water. Municipal water rates only pass along a fraction of the total cost – the true cost – of the enormously complex endeavor of inserting ourselves into the natural hydrologic cycle. Nature does not recognize the distinction between "drinking water" and "wastewater." Expecting safe and clean drinking water when you put your glass under a tap requires the expensive task of managing water from source to tap to toilet and back.

For much of modern …

March 17, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
ChesBayTallShip_wide.jpg

Maryland’s high court ruled last week in favor of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in a challenge by several advocacy groups against five municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by MDE. While reading the lengthy opinion on my computer, I felt at times like a raving sports fan yelling at the TV in frustration. My frustration was borne not of the court’s specific arguments, or even of concerns over any far-reaching legal implications of the decision. Rather, to understand why this decision has generated such frustration, it is important to understand the timing and context of this decision.

Generally speaking, court decisions merely upholding existing programs and the status quo, such as in the present case, rarely generate outrage. Moreover, I acknowledge that reasonable minds certainly can differ in interpreting complicated legal matters, as each of the seven reasonable minds on Maryland’s Court …

Feb. 23, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
PoultryPlant_wide.jpg

Legislative committees in both the Maryland House and Senate are holding hearings this week on the Poultry Litter Management Act, a bill that has been attracting a lot of attention in Maryland and beyond. I have been asked to testify as part of a panel featuring representatives of the United States Geological Survey and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The focus of my testimony will be the problems posed by farm animal manure – in this case, poultry litter on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

You can read the full testimony here, but the crux of it is that the creation of an effective and comprehensive manure management policy is one of the biggest missing pieces in the puzzle that is the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). Simply put, addressing the massive nutrient imbalance in areas like Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the greater Delmarva Peninsula caused …

Feb. 18, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
Great_Salt_Lake_wide.jpg

On May 12, 2009, the federal government finally got serious about protecting the Chesapeake Bay. That’s when President Obama signed Executive Order 13508 on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration, which declared that the federal government would put its shoulder into the multi-state effort to restore the Bay. Taking turns at a podium perched on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, the Governors of Maryland and Virginia and the Mayor of Washington D.C. praised the President that day for ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies to take on this new leadership role that would culminate in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) the following year.

When it was EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s turn at the microphone, she pledged that EPA would take a tough stance when necessary to compel states to finally follow through with their …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 15, 2021

It's Time to Update Maryland's Outdated Water Pollution Laws

Sept. 17, 2018

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

April 13, 2017

Baltimore's Experience May Yield Lessons for Senate as It Debates Integrated Planning Bill

Dec. 8, 2016

Pair of EPA Actions Show Long Road Ahead for Urban Water Quality, Climate Resilience

Nov. 18, 2016

Long-Term Forecast for Bay Restoration: Cloudy with a Chance of Storms

Oct. 17, 2016

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

May 18, 2016

Renewed Public Investment in Water Infrastructure Promotes Equality