How is Stormwater Regulated?
In urban areas, like Montgomery County, rainwater in the form of stormwater is carried through the storm drain system before being released in local streams and waterbodies. The stormwater runoff can carry trash or pollutants, such as fertilizers and oils, as well as cause erosion and physical damage to streams. The negative impact of stormwater runoff to watersheds is a concern nationwide and is regulated by the federal government as well as state agencies.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates everything that goes through storm drains under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit Program (MS4). The MS4 program was established to reduce and eliminate stormwater pollution throughout the United States. The primary goal of the program is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters.
What is the MS4 Permit?
In Maryland, the Maryland Department of the Environment is responsible for issuing all NPDES permits in the state, including the MS4 Permits. Read more about the Maryland MS4 Permitting program. (The state of Maryland has the authority to issue permits on behalf of EPA.)
The MS4 Permit Program is intended to reduce and eliminate pollution from rainfall runoff. The County's Permit requires the County to restore poor quality streams and meet water quality protection goals. To protect our local streams and meet regulatory requirements, runoff must be intercepted, slowed and treated by stormwater best management practices.
The Department of Environmental Protection is the lead department coordinating a multi-department/agency response to meet the requirements of the MS4 Permit. The permit is a key driver of the County's strategic watershed management program.
MS4 Permit Requirements
The MS4 Permits are issued for a five year cycle. The County’s current MS4 Permit was issued on February 16, 2010 and expires February 15, 2015. If the County does not comply with the MS4 Permit requirements, it may be subject to civil or criminal fines.
During this five-year cycle, the County is required to:
Current Permit: Annual Report
How Much Progress Has the County Made
In the most recent Annual Report to the Maryland Department of the Environment, the County noted the following progress towards meeting its MS4 Permit requirements.
DEP is the lead agency for projects to reduce stormwater runoff impacts. During Fiscal Year 2012, DEP:
DEP is the lead agency for enforcement of water quality laws that reduce pollution to our waterways. During Fiscal Year 2012, DEP:
DEP partnered with other County agencies to reduce pollution.
Meeting County Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)
DEP began developing a watershed assessment and implementation plan to meet the sediment TMDL in the Seneca Watershed. The County must reduce the sediment from urban sources by 44.6 percent. The TMDL implementation plan will combine the preliminary work done for the Countywide Implementation Strategy for the Great Seneca, Dry Seneca, and Little Seneca watersheds.
DEP made progress towards meeting the Chesapeake Bay TMDL by reducing nitrogen and phosphorous through watershed restoration and other stormwater best management practices. In FY 12, County pollutant reductions achieved .84% of the nitrogen pollution reduction goal required to meet County’s share of Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and 2.26% of the phosphorous pollution goal.
Improving Stormwater Management Laws and Regulations
The Department of Permitting Services (DPS) modified the County's Stormwater Management ordinance to comply with all current State standards, including requiring Environmental Site Design (ESD) non-structural stormwater BMPs to the maximum extent possible for new development and redevelopment.
The DPS conducted 11,191 erosion and sediment control inspections, resulting in 248 Notices of Violation and 105 civil citations during construction of development projects.
Environmental Site Design Strategy
The Planning Department continued to make progress on the comprehensive update of its zoning code, which was transmitted to Countil for review during 2013. This zoning code update included recommendations from the DEP's Code Review on incorporating ESD to the MEP, completed in 2012.
Maintaining Existing Stormwater Management (Facilities)
The DEP oversaw inspection and maintenance of 1,667 stormwater management facilities as part of its three-year cycle to complete inspections throughout the County.
Educating and EngagingThe DEP 's Watershed Management Division (WMD) is the lead for implementing the Public Outreach and Education Workplan. During FY12, the WMD :
Montgomery County Public Schools
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is an MS4 Co-Permittee and thus required to implement and report on programs to address runoff pollution. The MCPS is responsible for maintaining many of the Stormwater Best Management Practices on their sites and for implementing stormwater pollution prevention programs at the MCPS Bus Depots. The MCPS participates with DEP to identify and implement stormwater retrofit opportunities, including Environmental Site Design practices on school property. The MCPS is aggressively incorporating ESD practices into school building renovations, like the Green Roof shown here at Weller Road Elementary School.
In May 2011, the County adopted a carry-out bag fee to increase awareness about the problem of litter in our local streams and to offset costs of clean up for those who chose to use disposable bags. The law went into effect in January 2012.DEP is the lead agency for regional efforts to reduce trash and litter to the Potomac River and its tributaries through the Regional Anti-Litter Campaign with the Alice Ferguson Foundation. During FY12, DEP
DEP is the lead agency for the monitoring required in the MS4 Permit.
The MS4 permit requires the County to conduct monitoring to determine how well stomwater management practices reduce stormwater quantity and pollution. DEP will be constructing several small scale stormwater management practices in the Breewood tributary, a small subwatershed of the Anacostia. The County currently monitors biological, water chemistry, and physical conditions in the Breewood tributary in the Anacostia watershed to document pre-restoration conditions. Project construction is scheduled to begin during FY14.
DEP also monitors the physical condition of streams in the Clarksburg Special protection Area (SPA) to determine the effectiveness of stormwater management meeting the criteria of the Maryland Stormwater Design Manual.
The County reported that $30,302,000 was budgeted to meet the MS4 Permit required programs. The majority of these funds are provided through the Montgomery County Water Quality Protection Charge. In FY12, the WQPC provided $18, 274,245.
Interjurisdictional AgreementsMontgomery County is situated in the central corridor of Maryland between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The County, given its drainage area size and population density, has a considerable impact on both regional and local environmental resources. It is a signatory to regional watershed protection agreements and coordinates watershed management with neighboring jurisdictions to protect and improve shared resources.
Anacostia Watershed Restoration Agreement
The Anacostia River flows through Montgomery and Prince George's counties into Washington, D.C., and then to the Potomac River. It has been identified as one of the three most polluted rivers in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. In 1987, the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Agreement was signed by the local, state, and federal agencies with land and management responsibilities in the Anacostia watershed. Since the agreement was signed, significant strides have been made to:
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments supports the website on behalf of the members of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership. Visit www.anacostia.net for background on natural and cultural resources, along with news, meeting minutes, recent progress reports, and other watershed-based information.
Patuxent River Commission
Montgomery County is a member of the Patuxent River Commission, an interjurisdictional group that addresses environmental protection issues throughout the Patuxent River watershed. The 930-square-mile watershed is entirely within Maryland. It has been the focus of innovative policy, planning, and implementation efforts since 1980, beginning with a "charrette" that resulted in establishing the state's first nutrient reduction goals for wastewater treatment plants.
Commission members are committed to identifying relative roles and responsibilities to protect the watershed, tributaries, river, and reservoirs in the Upper Patuxent. They established six priority resources for protection:
Every year the Commission reports on funding and policy commitments and progress in achieving long-term protection of these water resources.
Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty
Since 1989, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has organized annual cleanups along the Potomac and its tributaries. In 2003, the Foundation began to galvanize federal, state, and local elected officials to participate in a strategy to prevent trash from entering local waterways. Montgomery County signed the Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty and has committed, along with other local jurisdictions, to achieving a trash-free Potomac by 2013 by:
Maryland Local Government Agreement for Chesapeake Bay Restoration
In 1992, the Chesapeake Bay Program completed a reevaluation of the status and trends in water quality of the bay and its tidal tributaries. This led to both the allocation of nutrient reduction targets among the signatory states and the Maryland Local Government Agreement. Originally signed by the Governor, counties, and the City of Baltimore in 1993, the Agreement was updated in 2000 to outline commitments by the state and local governments to address the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement at the local level.
Maryland Water Monitoring Council
The Maryland Water Monitoring Council was created in 1996 by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The Council serves as a statewide collaborative body to help achieve effective collection, interpretation, and dissemination of environmental data related to issues, policies, and resource management objectives involving water monitoring.
The Council addresses the full range of aquatic resources—groundwater and surface waters; freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments—and associated watershed resources in Maryland. Montgomery County has participated in all Council activities since 1996, which helps to protect and manage the County's aquatic resources with increased scrutiny from a broad scientific and water resource management network.