Last week, my colleagues and I advocated for a pair of clean water bills in Maryland and Virginia, which were spurred by research completed by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR). One would create a Private Well Safety Program in Maryland, and the other would create an aboveground chemical storage tank registration program in Virginia.
Both laws are sorely needed. This two-part blog series explains why. Today’s piece looks at our efforts to protect clean drinking water in Maryland; check back tomorrow for Part II, which explores our collaborative efforts to protect Virginians from toxic chemical spills.
In 2020, CPR policy analyst Katlyn Schmitt and I investigated nitrate concentrations in drinking water on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore — where much of the state’s agricultural activity is concentrated — and analyzed state policies designed to protect private well owners. We found that Maryland was one of five states with the fewest well water protections nationwide. These findings were published in our report, Tainted Tap: Nitrate Pollution, Factory Farms, and Drinking Water in Maryland and Beyond.
Spurred by these findings, Maryland Del. Vaughn Stewart introduced legislation (House Bill 1069) to establish critical protections for Maryland well owners. A pared down version …
This op-ed was originally published in Maryland Matters.
Although vaccination rates continue to rise and coverage on COVID-19 is fading away from prominent news dashboards, our rates are still higher than in summer 2020. While we still adapt to living and working with COVID-19, we must prepare for future public health emergencies so we do not lose another year figuring out our response.
While many provisions of the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act (MEWPA) expired when Gov. Larry Hogan ended Maryland’s state of emergency, one important, future-looking provision remained. Under the law, the Maryland Department of Health is required to develop a template catastrophic health emergency preparedness plan.
The statutory requirement is supposed to provide a plan we can reach for if we are faced with future pandemics. We need to have the best practices, plans and lessons learned compiled and prepared for the next disaster …
Hurricane season hit Maryland hard this year, and even as it comes to a close, heavy rains continue to cause highway shutdowns and spread toxic floodwater. With the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) currently updating its rules and permits regarding stormwater, Marylanders have an opportunity to protect their communities against one of the most pernicious problems climate change poses for the region.
Stormwater pollution occurs when heavy rain or snow is not absorbed by the ground due to oversaturated soil or impervious surfaces. The runoff sometimes reaches dangerous volumes, turning roadways into rivers and causing flash floods.
It also pollutes our environment: When runoff flows over rooftops, streets, and storm sewers, it collects trash, chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and other toxic and harmful substances that are carried into our waterways. Along the way, the polluted water passes through communities, evaporating and coating the surrounding environment with toxins …
This post was originally published by the Chesapeake Accountability Project. Reprinted with permission.
Maryland is home to more than 1,000 industrial facilities, including landfills, auto salvage yards, hazardous waste treatment, storage sites, and various types of manufacturing and processing plants. When it rains or snows, toxic pollution often runs off these facilities and enters nearby waterways and groundwater resources, negatively impacting aquatic life, nearby communities, and drinking water sources.
The problem — known as industrial stormwater pollution — is dire in Maryland. More industrial facilities are being built in the state, and precipitation intensity is increasing more quickly in the Chesapeake Bay region than elsewhere in the United States, threatening public and environmental health. Low-income people and communities of color are at heightened risk.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) requires industrial facilities not covered by individual permits to obtain a general permit for industrial stormwater. This …
Dirty, polluted stormwater that runs off of industrial sites when it rains is a major cause of pollution to Maryland’s streams and rivers, and ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland is home to thousands of such industrial sites, all of which are required by law to obtain a stormwater discharge permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to prevent pollution and protect public and environmental health.
Unfortunately, many of these sites do not have a permit. For example, our research in one small area of Anne Arundel County found that only four out of 12 industrial sites possessed a current permit. Of the industrial sites that hold a permit, many are not in compliance with the permit requirements. Between 2017 and 2020, MDE conducted …
As Maryland heads into the final stretch of a collective effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, it has inexplicably passed over its best opportunity in years to modernize regulation of industrial stormwater — rain and snow that collects toxic pollution as it runs off factories, warehouses, scrap metal dealers, and other industrial sites.
Earlier this year, Maryland released a proposed revision of its general water pollution permit, which limits the type and amount of pollutants that facilities can discharge into public waters and sets monitoring and reporting requirements to protect public and environmental health.
Unfortunately, the state missed an important opportunity to bring stormwater regulation from the last century into the present — but it’s not too late to change course.
Since President Joe Biden assumed office, environmental justice has been at the front and center of his administration. One key initiative: developing better mapping tools to identify communities that may bear a disproportionate burden of toxic pollution and climate change impacts. Biden’s environmental justice (EJ) plan emphasizes the value of these tools and the need to improve them.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current tool — known as EJSCREEN — dates to 1994, when President Bill Clinton issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to collect, maintain, and analyze information on environmental and human health risks borne by low-income communities and people of color.
The EPA published EJSCREEN in 2015. It integrates demographic data (such as percent low-income, under the age five, over age 65, etc.) and environmental pollution measures at the block group or census tract level nationwide. The mapped data provide a visual …
At midnight on April 13, Maryland’s 2021 legislative session closed out with the passage of a law (House Bill 1069) that will provide meaningful drinking water protections for tenants who rely on well water. The measure, sponsored by Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), passed with bipartisan support in the Maryland Senate but faced hurdles in the House due to a last-minute filibuster attempt.
Public drinking water is regularly monitored and tested to meet certain safety standards set out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Safe Drinking Water Act. The safety of drinking water from a private well or smaller community system, on the other hand, is solely up to the owner of that well or system.
In CPR’s recent report, fellow Policy Analyst Darya Minovi and I found that Maryland lags far behind most states in terms of protections for well …
Last week, a Maryland circuit court ruled that the state must regulate and limit ammonia pollution from industrial poultry operations. This landmark decision takes an important step toward protecting the environment and public health in the Old Line State and could spur similar action in other states.
It is certainly needed in Maryland. The state's Lower Eastern Shore is home to a large number of industrial poultry operations; three Lower Eastern Shore counties house close to 44 million chickens at any given time — roughly 241 times greater than the number of people in the region.
Every year, these operations release millions of pounds of ammonia — a form of nitrogen — into the environment, polluting our land, water, and air. Ammonia is a colorless compound formed when nitrogen in chicken manure breaks down. It enters the air as a gas and can land on the ground, polluting groundwater and …
Businesses that violate environmental laws and permits damage our air, land, and water, sometimes irreparably. Yet too often, these polluters aren't held accountable for harming the environment and public health. In Maryland, state officials don't respond to all violations, and, when they do, they aren't always successful. Even when they are successful, fines and other penalties don't necessarily result in behavior change. As a result, Maryland polluters are largely off the hook for the "externalities" of doing business.
To deter pollution, we need true accountability. We must ensure polluters pay for all harm done, whether to the environment, humans, and other species and habitats. Unfortunately, Maryland, like most other states, is a long way from achieving this goal. At CPR, we're tracking bills in the Maryland legislature that, if passed, would set the state on a path to greater compliance with environmental laws. These bills would: