Volume IV, Number 5
eMDE is a quarterly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state.
A bold plan for Baltimore’s Harbor proposed by property owners and others with an interest in the Inner Harbor envisions a sustainable urban park fronting water so clean that people can fish and even swim.
Lawn areas that require large amounts of water, fertilizer, and herbicides would be replaced with native trees and perennials. Rain gardens and floating islands of marsh grasses would retain and filter the runoff that carries nutrients into the water. Pumps powered by green energy sources would increase life-sustaining oxygen beneath the surface.
These changes, just part of the strategy, would be part of an overall effort to enlighten merchants and residents in the Harbor watershed to the benefits of taking public transportation, recycling, reducing energy and water use, and otherwise going green.
The Healthy Harbor Initiative was assembled by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, a group that includes area businesses such as the National Aquarium and The Maryland Science Center. The Maryland Department of the Environment is a partnering organization. When the plan was announced, MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson congratulated the group for its vision -- and delivered good news about steps already underway to improve the Harbor’s water quality.
Baltimore City is undertaking an unprecedented level of work to correct leaky sewer systems, Secretary Wilson told the gathering. The Patapsco and Back River wastewater treatment plants are being upgraded with state-of-the-art nutrient removal technology - thanks to all who pay a monthly water and sewer fee.
Also, Maryland is in the forefront nationally on the crucial issue of controlling stormwater runoff. Runoff carries such nutrients as nitrogen and phosphorous into the Harbor and other waterways, leading to oxygen depletion.
Maryland’s new stormwater regulations require environmental site design to control runoff for all new development. And this year Maryland and Baltimore City will renew the city’s stormwater permit with an eye toward reducing the flow of pollution from existing development.
MDE also took action to restore the Harbor by listing a portion of the waterway earlier this year as “impaired” for bacteria. This is the first step in developing a TMDL, or pollution diet, for bacteria. MDE is in preliminary discussions with Baltimore City on developing a TMDL for the Harbor for trash.
Also, a consent decree between MDE and the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Baltimore City addresses sanitary sewer overflows, with stipulated penalties for every overflow and requirements for an estimated $1 billion in repairs. A similar consent decree is in place for Baltimore County.
Everyone can take steps to reduce pollution and improve water quality, and these efforts are particularly important in the Baltimore Harbor watershed. You can connect your downspout to a rain barrel and use less fertilizer. You can even take such simple, not-so-glamorous steps as picking up litter and picking up after your pet -- and help advance the goal of making the Harbor fishable and swimmable.
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