by Vince Gardina
Director of the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability
We all know that the Chesapeake Bay and the many streams and rivers that run to it have been declining for decades, but did you know that Baltimore County has an entire team of scientists and engineers working to help restore the Bay? That's right, Baltimore County's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability has teams whose sole effort is to evaluate water quality and put in place various practices and construction projects designed to restore water quality by cleaning storm water as it runs off of our houses, buildings, roads and parking lots.
The goal is to remove pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment from these waters so that they don't end up in the Bay. You see, these pollutants harm the water and by removing oxygen and sunlight causing fish, crabs, oysters and submerged plants to die.
Baltimore County is working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Environment to address water quality standards required in the Clean Water Act. This federal law requires that certain polluted waterways meet what are known as Total Maximum Daily Loads for these pollutants.
Basically, the pollutant concentrations in the designated waterways must be reduced to acceptable levels that do not affect wildlife or humans. The County is planning to meet these pollutant load reductions by putting in place measures called Best Management Practices. These are defined in a planning document prepared by the County and submitted to Maryland Department of Environment. All of these measures to reduce pollutants must be in place by 2025.
What kind of practices and capital projects will help restore the Bay? There are hundreds but the most effective ones are stream restorations, storm water management facility upgrades, shoreline stabilization, bioretention systems and tree plantings.
However, this isn't just a job for us, every county resident can help these efforts by applying less lawn fertilizer, using rain barrels to catch storm water, plant trees on their property, build a rain garden, keep grass at least three inches high and remove a sidewalk or paved area and replace it with pavers or stone.
For more information on our efforts to keep the bay clean and safe, go to http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/environment/monitoring/tmdl.html.