Montgomery County Stormwater Field Trip Highlights Both Successes and Cost Challenges

On October 22, members of the Montgomery County Council and several Montgomery County Delegates participated in a stormwater/enviornmental facility field trip.  The purpose of the field trip was to highlight the County’s successes and challenges in meeting the requirements of its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit and other environmental mandates.  MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp Jr. also participated.

The field trip included visits to a stormwater pond renovation, the use of low impact design (LID) rain gardens at Ridgeview Middle School, and a stream restoration project.    While LID structures, such as rain gardens and vegetated swales, are now required “to the maximum extent practicable” by the State’s stormwater regulations, they do pose significant costs, especially in a redevelopment or retrofitting situation.

Representatives from the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection estimated that it costs roughly $15,000 to treat an acre of impervious surface through the use of a stormwater retention pond.  In comparison, a stream restoration project costs $40,000 per acre and a LID structure  cost $211,000 per acre.  The high costs of LID structures has forced the County to decrease the total acreage that will be addressed by such structures under the County’s MS4 permits.  However, Department officials were hopeful that the cost of LID structures would decrease as the County gained more familiarity with their installation and use.

The Department also noted the other benefits of stream restoration project and LID structures.  Stream restoration projects provide numerous ecological benefits, including habitat and wildlife restoration.  LID structures can help reduce the amount of impervious surface on a site and improve the site’s aesthetics.

In addition to the stormwater portion of the field trip, participants also visited the Executive Office Building cafeteria (food waste recycling pilot program), the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station (recycling center), and the Oaks Landfill (tree planting and various reclamation projects).

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