April 6, 2012
State Polluted Waterways List by 37
Runoff is main cause of pollution in many rivers throughout the state;
state legislation would help
(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Fifteen of the 37 creeks, rivers and sections of the Chesapeake Bay recently added to Maryland's dirty water list are polluted because of runoff from urban and suburban areas, according to a review of the report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).
"The cost to Marylanders of this dirty water is billions of dollars in lost revenues, jobs, property values, and quality of life," said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of CBF. "We must invest and plan now to reduce pollution from polluted runoff, and from unmanaged, sprawl development. "
The state Senate is considering a bill, HB 987, Stormwater Management - Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, which would require the state's most populated counties and Baltimore City to raise funds to fix badly neglected stormwater systems that are supposed to drain and treat polluted runoff. The local governments would decide the size of the fee, and the projects pursued.
Maryland and other states are required to test tidal and fresh water for pollutants, and every two years to list waterways that do not meet water quality standards. Waterways placed in Category 5 are polluted and require a clean-up plan.
Waterways added to Category 5 in 2012 as a result of "urban runoff/storm sewers" were Lower Gunpowder in Baltimore County (total suspended solids, chlorides, sulfates); Back River in Baltimore City and Baltimore County (total suspended solids, chlorides and sulfates); Liberty Reservoir watershed in Baltimore and Carroll counties (chlorides); West River in Anne Arundel County (total suspended solids); Little Patuxent River in Anne Arundel and Howard counties (chlorides); Wadeable streams in the Potomac River in Montgomery and Frederick counties (chlorides and sulfates); Wadeable streams in the Potomac River in Washington County (chlorides and sulfates); the Anacostia River in Montgomery and Prince George's counties (chlorides and sulfates); and the Deep Creek Lake watershed in Garrett County (total suspended solids).
Waterways are added to the dirty water list when water tests reveal a new creek, river or Bay section with high levels of pollution, or when they reveal an additional pollutant in a waterway already on the list. Many of the urban and suburban waterways added to the 2012 list already were listed for other pollutants.
Liberty Reservoir watershed, which supplies drinking water for Baltimore City and some surrounding suburbs, was listed this year because of increased levels of chlorides. The pollution is not considered an immediate risk for human health, but can alter the taste of water. Officials have watched chloride levels rising for years in the reservoir watershed, and have suggested it could be washing off large commercial parking lots and other hard surfaces in the area.
Maryland's 2012 Draft Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality also shows that runoff could be contributing significant pollution to rural waterways as well, and causing significant potential economic damage. Fourteen of 37 of the newly-listed polluted waterways are on the Eastern Shore, and in other rural areas of the state. In many cases, those waterways were found with high levels of fecal coliform. Fecal coliform is usually associated with human or animal waste from: manure, septic discharge, pet waste and wildlife. Often times that waste washes off the land in storms.
On the Eastern Shore, increased levels of fecal coliform and other pollution were found in areas where oysters and other shellfish are harvested: Daugherty Creek in Somerset County; Little Choptank in Dorchester County; Lower Domingo Creek in Talbot County; Jenkins Creek in Dorchester County; Broad Creek in Talbot County; and Edge Creek in Talbot County. The state has imposed harvest restrictions on those waters, a potentially crippling impact if some watermen are attempting to start oyster farming operations there.
Eleven waterways previously listed as polluted were removed this year when tests revealed those creeks, rivers and other waterways now meet federal water quality standards. Among those removed were Deep Creek Lake, a popular recreation lake in western Maryland which had been listed for phosphorous pollution, and the Miles River on the Eastern Shore which had been closed to shellfish harvesting because of high bacteria readings.
Maryland Department of Environment (MDE)says its data does not necessarily indicate the state's water is getting more polluted: "These additional impairment listings may reflect increased monitoring and improvements in assessment techniques, and do not necessarily indicate a decline in the State's overall water quality."
Review the full state Draft 2012 Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality in Maryland Category 5 list which was released last month on MDE's web site.