Survey finds local pollution oversight lacking

If you create ponds and rain gardens to capture polluted runoff, will they work - and keep working? 

A recent survey of storm-water control facilities put in along the Severn River in Anne Arundel County found that a third of them were in good condition, but more - 43 percent - were either in poor shape or couldn't be found at all.

That's what 26 volunteers for the Severn River Association found earlier this month when they fanned out to check up on 30 ponds, rain gardens and other controls meant to collect storm runoff, a major source of pollution for the river and the Chesapeake Bay as a whole.

In a letter earlier this month to Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, association President Duane Wilding blamed the situation on a shortage of inspectors to check up on storm runoff controls.  The county has cut its inspection staff from seven in 2001 to one today, while the number of storm-water ponds and other facilities has grown from 7,000 to 11,000, according to the letter and other information supplied by Richard Klein of Community & Environmental Defense Services.

"In the Severn River watershed there are more than 2,000 stormwater (controls) which cost in
excess of $100 million to install," Wilding wrote. "Yet the lack of inspection and maintenance is causing this irreplaceable infrastructure to deteriorate."

The staffing shortage is particularly acute in Arundel, Severn activists contend.  Neighboring Baltimore and Howard Counties have four and three inspectors, respectively, to check a much smaller number of facilities, according to Klein.

Noting that the General Assembly this year passed a law requiring the state's 10 largest counties to raise revenues for controlling storm-water pollution, the Severn River Association leader urged the county executive to make hiring more inspectors a priority for the new funds.

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