Frederick County Facing Potential Fines Over Stormwater Fee

A November 4 Frederick News-Post article reports that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has warned Frederick County that its 1 cent stormwater utility fee appears inadequate to meet its MS4 permit and Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) obligations, subjecting the County to potential daily fines.  The County is one of 10 counties required to enact a stormwater fee under legislation that passed in 2012 and is currently in the process of renewing its MS4 permit with MDE.  From the article:

“We believe that this level of funding will be insufficient to support the people, programs and projects that will be necessary for the county to meet its obligations under the Watershed Implementation Plan and the new MS4 permit that we expect to issue to your county next month,” stated an Oct. 25 letter written by Robert Summers, the state’s environmental secretary.

The county could get slapped with fines of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of its storm water permit, which is in the process of being renewed, the letter continued.

However, Commissioner Paul Smith says the state is setting the county up for failure by establishing unachievable goals. A draft of the county’s next storm water permit, which regulates the county’s drainage into state watersheds, would come with a price tag of $112 million over five years, according to county staff. This cost would break down to about $524 per eligible property taxpayer each year.  …

Frederick County staff also say the letter from Summers fails to acknowledge that the county doesn’t lean on its one-cent fee to fund storm water programs.

MDE is quoted in the article as saying that water quality targets will eventually appear in all stormwater permits across the state.  MDE also states it will collaborate with counties on affordable permit compliance methods.