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Montgomery pollution plan found lacking

Environmental groups scored a win last week in their lawsuit contending that Montgomery County's state-mandated plan for curbing polluted runoff is lacking.

Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Rubin ordered the Maryland Department of the Environment on Wednesday to revisit the storm-water permit it had issued the county in 2010 requiring reductions in pollution and trash from county streets, parking lots and existing buildings.

Environmentalists had challenged the permit, arguing that it violated the Clean Water Act by failing to specify reductions needed in harmful discharges of nutrients, sediment and bacteria into the county's rivers and streams.

"A permit that lacks specific requirements for reducing water pollution makes no sense at all," said Jennifer Chavez, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm which brought suit on behalf of several groups and individuals, including the Anacostia and Potomac riverkeepers, Friends of the Earth and Waterkeeper Alliance.

To meet state water-quality standards, the groups contend, Montgomery's 499-square-mile network of storm drains would need to reduce discharges of sediment by 46 percent, of nitrogen and phosphorus by 79 percent and of fecal bacteria by 96 percent.

MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said the judge has yet to issue a written order.  Once he does, state officials will review it and "respond appropriately," Apperson said.

It's not clear yet how - or if - the ruling will affect runoff cleanup requirements in the Baltimore area and the rest of the state.  MDE has issued draft storm-water permits to Baltimore city and to Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George's counties. State officials also have said they hope to produce draft permits by year's end for Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford and Howard counties.




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