Trash cleanup ordered for Baltimore harbor, streams

No more trash: Litter cleanup ordered for Baltimore harbor and area streams.

The abundant trash littering Baltimore area streams and the harbor will have to be cleaned up under new pollution limits set by federal and state regulators, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday.

The city and Baltimore County would be required to remove or prevent hundreds of tons of trash and debris from being washed or dumped annually into the Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls and the lower Patapsco River under the limits approved by EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The harbor and its tributaries were declared impaired by trash in 2008, making Baltimore's just the third urban stream system in the country getting regulatory attention for its waterborne litter problem. Federal and state officials have been working since to quantify the problem and spell out what must be done. The plan is similar to cleanups ordered in the Los Angeles area and on the Anacostia River in the Washington, D.C., area.

Halle Van der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, a watershed watchdog group, welcomed the trash cleanup order, for which her group had campaigned. Volunteer cleanups removed nearly 86,000 pounds of trash last year around the city and suburbs, she said. She also noted that the storm-water management fee – which some critics have derided as a "rain tax" – can help fund city and county cleanup efforts.

"Pollution from trash is more than just an eyesore," Van der Gaag said. "It also threatens public health and puts a drain on our economy – so doing more to reduce trash is good news for Baltimore families and businesses."

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