Maryland to Revise Stormwater Permit for Construction

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) on Oct. 24 issued its formal "tentative determination" for a general permit for stormwater related to construction activities.

New conditions of the draft five-year permit required by the federal Clean Water Act include increased public notification and participation, new monitoring and plan review, and several critical elements of site design, and erosion and sediment controls. The new permit would be an important step toward cleaning up local waterways and restoring the Chesapeake Bay by reducing the amount of sediment going into waterways. The department also announced plans to review and modify the state's erosion and sediment control standards.

Maryland Department of the Environment Deputy Secretary Bob Summers said: "This new general permit will do more than ever in Maryland to stop sediment from damaging our waterways and eroding streambanks. As our state continues to grow, it's important that we enact measures to limit pollution from new construction. Today's draft permit, along with Montgomery County's proposed municipal permit and revised stormwater management regulations, clearly demonstrates that the state of Maryland is taking strong, comprehensive steps to address the serious problems caused by polluted stormwater runoff."

Polluted stormwater runoff damages local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay because it spreads excess nutrients, sediment, toxic chemicals, and trash and causes stream erosion and flooding. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, 17 percent of phosphorus, 11 percent of nitrogen, and 9 percent of sediment loads to the bay come from stormwater. Maryland is committed to reducing nutrient and sediment pollution from stormwater runoff in the watershed as part of the 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agreement.

The general permit covers construction activities that disturb one acre or more. Several key changes of note are:

•A 30-45 day waiting period following submission of the Notice of Intent (NOI) before permit coverage is approved to provide more opportunity for public participation;

•A requirement to monitor the construction site for a number of specific sediment discharge problems that, if observed, trigger review of site conditions on a first occasion and then review of plans to see if additional controls are needed if there is a second occasion;

•A requirement that plans submitted under the permit address eight critical points of interest related to site design and erosion and sediment controls; and

•requirements regarding applicable total maximum daily loads and water quality standards.

At a series of public meetings with stakeholders, a range of changes to the permit provisions were discussed, and these were considered by MDE in the draft permit development. Numerous suggestions to improve sediment control practices and update turbidity water quality standards were incorporated. To be most effective, some suggested changes must be incorporated into the technical standards for erosion and sediment control. The agency announced plans to initiate a comprehensive review of the state's erosion and sediment control standards in early 2009 and develop proposed modifications to the "Maryland Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control" by May 30, 2010.

The draft general permit, a fact sheet, and more information are available at

The department will hold a public hearing concerning this tentative determination at 10 a.m. on Nov. 24, at the Maryland Department of the Environment, Aqua Conf. Rm., 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, Md., 21230 Written comments will be accepted through Nov. 24 and should be directed to Ms. Karen Smith, Maryland Department of the Environment, Water Management Administration, Compliance Program, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, Md. 21230. Please note that persons may also submit written comments following the public hearing through Dec. 1.

In addition to today's proposed permit for construction activities, a tentative permit for Montgomery County's storm sewer system issued in September addresses retrofitting existing development by an additional 20 percent and proposed regulations announced on Oct. 17 to implement the Stormwater Management Act of 2007 would require developers to use state-of-the-art environmental site design practices wherever possible to control runoff and pollution from both new development and redevelopment.

The state agency also encourages property owners to reduce stormwater runoff and erosion by using permeable paving surfaces; planting trees, shrubs, and groundcover; allowing "buffer strips" near waterways; and limiting the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

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