A Bay Journal article (2017-11-16) reported that stormwater runoff from industrial facilities is a threat to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and nearby communities. The finding comes from a recently released report compiled by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) and the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). The report also criticized how the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) permits and enforces industrial stormwater runoff.
The article noted that more than one-third of permitted industrial facilities exceeded their stormwater pollution limits from 2014 to March of 2017. The report stated that auto salvage yards, scrap metal recyling facilities, and landfills were among the worst sites. Runoff from such sites could include copper, aluminum, zinc, lead, and other pollutants. Wastewater treatment plants could also be significant violators. From the article:
One in seven of the facilities required by the state to report their discharges failed to do so, the groups’ analysis found, and 40 percent of those that did submitted incomplete or partial data. What’s more, the vast majority of facilities weren’t even required to report about their stormwater discharges into local waters. …
The groups blame the “general permit” that [MDE] issues to more than 900 industrial facilities statewide. As the name suggests, its requirements are less specific and often less stringent than what facilities would have to do if they were covered by an individual pollution discharge permit. In fact, only 228 of those facilities were required to conduct and report on quarterly monitoring of their discharges.
The report also found that MDE inspection and enforcement over the time period covered in the report was lacking. Although inspection of industrial sites had during the increased from the period of June, 2016 through June, 2017, the report stated that MDE and the Office of the Attorney General had only take enforcement action against 13 facilities subject to an industrial stormwater permit since 2014. MDE provided this response in the article:
MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles issued a statement in response to the report, saying that his department is “committed to enforcing regulations that protect the environment and public health, including the management of stormwater runoff from industrial sites.” He explained that the general permit sets numeric “benchmarks” to determine pollutant concentrations in runoff at the edge of a site, but that exceeding those benchmarks is not in itself a violation of the permit or necessarily show how much pollution will reach the Bay. Rather, he said, the benchmarks are indicators of how well stormwater control measures are working, and they let the MDE staff focus on those sites where pollutant levels exceed the benchmarks, to ensure that they are taking steps to control runoff. He did not address why many sites reporting exceedances had not been inspected.
The report called for increased MDE funding by Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly for the hiring and training of inspectors, stronger industrial stormwater permit requirements, industrial sites to monitor their stormwater runoff, and “deterrence-based enforcement” that targets neighborhoods with a concentration of violators.