Water Blog

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.

Sediment Pollution

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Sediment pollution is a major challenge for Baltimore’s waterways. Last month we were soaked with 9.98 inches of rain, making it the wettest June on record for our area. These extreme rain events lead to very high stream flows and widespread flooding, which cause severe stream bank erosion.

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During these events, stormwater also washes over construction sites and carries huge amounts of sediment into our neighborhood streams, rivers and the Baltimore Harbor.

What is the Big Deal about Dirt?

Although it might seem harmless at first, the sediment actually smothers stream and river habitat, destroying fish eggs and aquatic plants. It also transports pollutants like nitrogen and toxic PCBs into the Baltimore Harbor and Tidal Patapsco River.

In June, Blue Water Baltimore staff and volunteers participated in the second annual Greater Baltimore Survey to measure compliance with erosion and sediment control laws by local construction sites. Part of the law requires construction sites to stabilize any exposed soil with grass seed, hay, or other coverings so that less sediment is carried into our streams by stormwater runoff.

Unstabilized construction sites are the leading source of sediment pollution, and noncompliance issues appear to be widespread. However, as we wait for our partners at Community & Environment Defense Services to tabulate this year’s survey results, we expect to see significant compliance improvements over last year in all of the Greater Baltimore jurisdictions.

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Erosion and Sediment Control Inspection Reports

Earlier this year, we were alerted to a provision in the City’s Code, Baltimore City Code, § 34-7(c), that requires the posting of the City’s erosion and sediment control inspection reports and enforcement actions for the public to freely access online. Thanks to the hard work of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, we are pleased to announce that the resource is now available online.

We expect this resource to help us achieve several objectives towards our goal to raise compliance rates with erosion and sediment control laws in the Baltimore region, all to the benefit of our local water quality. First, citizens that report suspected erosion and sediment control violations to 311 will be able to hold the City accountable to conduct thorough inspections and appropriate enforcement by checking this webpage and reviewing the inspection documents. Second, developers and construction contractors should be aware that community leaders and champions for clean water will be checking this resource regularly to detect and hold them accountable for poor practices that dirty their neighborhood streets and streams with construction sediment. Finally, Blue Water Baltimore and its partners can regularly assess these reports and data to provide a clear assessment of both erosion and sediment control compliance rates by local developers and the City’s own enforcement activities.

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Get Involved

Be on the look-out for unstabilized construction sites and report them to Blue Water Baltimore. Take a look at the City’s new erosion and sediment control page for poorly-performing construction sites in your neighborhood and lend a hand to our effort by keeping an eye on these sites. Finally, stay tuned in July as we help our partners at Community & Environmental Defense Services to share the results from our 2015 Greater Baltimore Survey.