Stormwater Regulation & the County's Efforts
For most urban areas like Montgomery County, what goes into our storm drains (stormwater) makes its way into our local streams. Those streams are part of larger watersheds that lead to major rivers, like the Potomac River, and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Because our waters are interconnected and not defined by county or state lines, the federal government regulates everything that goes through storm drain systems.
The federal government regulates storm drains through a permit process called the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit Program (AKA the MS4 Permit Program).
Montgomery County has an MS4 Permit that mandates the County to meet certain water quality standards. The Permit is given every 5 years and our latest permit ended February 2015. For a more detailed explanation of the MS4 Permit and to read the permit, click here.
The County's Progress at Cleaning Our Waters
In the most recent Annual Report on our MS4 Permit, the County noted the following progress towards meeting its MS4 Permit Requirements:
Watershed Restoration Planning and Implementation
The Department of Environmental protection (DEP) is the lead agency for projects to reduce stormwater runoff impacts. During Fiscal Year 2014, DEP:
DEP is the lead agency for enforcement of water quality laws that reduce pollution to our waterways. During Fiscal Year 2014, DEP:
DEP also partnered with other County agencies to reduce pollution.
Meeting County Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)
The MS4 Permit requires implementation plans showing how the County will achieve pollutant load reductions to meet waste load allocations for any Environmental Protection Agency approved Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Watershed Implementation Plans for all County TMDLs approved as of 2010 can be found in the Countywide Implementation Strategy.
DEP made progress towards meeting the Chesapeake Bay TMDL by reducing nitrogen and phosphorous through watershed restoration and other stormwater best management practices. In Fiscal Year 14, County pollutant reductions achieved 4.4% of the nitrogen pollution reduction goal required to meet County’s share of Chesapeake Bay TMDL, and 20% of the phosphorous pollution goal.
Maintaining Existing Stormwater Management (Facilities)
DEP oversaw triennial inspection of 1,143 stormwater management facilities, and oversaw maintenance and repairs on 1,871 facilities. DEP also began contracting for routine maintenance of publically owned ESD practices.
Educating and Engaging Coomunities
The DEP is the lead for implementing the Public Outreach and Education Workplan. The workplan was developed in the County Coordinated Implementation Strategy to highlight targeted restoration and outreach activities for the County to develop and refine. During Fiscal Year 2014, DEP :
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. 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.
MCPS participates with DEP to identify and implement stormwater retrofit opportunities, including Environmental Site Design (ESD) practices on school property. MCPS is aggressively incorporating ESD practices into school building renovations.
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 FY14, 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 stormwater management practices reduce stormwater quantity and pollution. DEP is 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 to document pre-restoration conditions. 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. DEP monitors County streams to assess stream biological and habitat conditions.
The County reported that $51,728,358 was budgeted to meet the MS4 Permit required programs. The majority of these funds are provided through the Montgomery County Water Quality Protection Charge (WQPC). In FY14, the WQPC provided $24,101,094.
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 Programwas 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.
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 captured, 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
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.