MDE COVID-19 Update


​BALTIMORE, M​D— In response to Governor Larry Hogan’s unprecedented actions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,​​​ Secretary Ben Grumbles has implemented policies at MDE to limit in-person transactions and safeguard the health of its employees, stakeholders and the general public while protecting the environment and public health.

A large number of MDE employees are working remotely until further notice. During this time, MDE staff will continue to be available by phone and email.  Environmental inspectors continue to enforce and protect citizens while following CDC distancing guidelines. 
 
As part of the state’s strong response to COVID-19, Governor Hogan issued an executive order providing a grace period for any state licenses, permits and/or registrations that may be expiring or up for renewal during the state of emergency. Renewal deadlines will be extended up to 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted. More information is av​ailable from your MDE program contacts. 
 
This is a rapidly evolving situation, and the department will continue to maintain normal operations as much as possible. Information and updates on meetings will be posted on the department’s website and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter​) as they become available. Any questions regarding specific programs or services provided by MDE should be sent to editor.mde@maryland.gov. 
 
For more information on the statewide response to COVID-19, please visit governor.maryland.gov/coronavirus​.

Sewer Sentinel Initiative Maps Available​

The Sewer Sentinel Initiative samples wastewater from high-density housing situations across the state such as senior living centers and apartment communities, often called congregate housing. Here is an interactive link to maps for information gathered in the sampling: https://mdewin64.mde.state.md.us/WSA/SSI/index.html

The maps are updated weekly with the results from testing the wastewater flowing from congregate housing areas throughout the state. Sample locations are color coded to indicate if the virus is present and if it is increasing, decreasing or remaining the same. A red dot indicates that the virus has been detected and its presence is increasing with each week's sample. If you reside in an area with a red dot, refer to your local health department and housing directors about what you can do to keep yourself safe. A yellow dot indicates that the virus has been detected, but the level remained steady over the last week. A green dot means that the virus amount is decreasing from week-to-week. A blue dot indicates that the virus was not present or was at an undetectable level.

In partnership with housing authorities, management companies as well as state and local health departments, the goal of this project is to detect and respond to the presence of the COVID-19 virus in vulnerable communities. Research has shown people shed the virus in their urine and feces before normal symptoms are present as well as those who may be asymptomatic. By testing wastewater, Maryland can help keep communities healthier and safer by making them aware of their risk earlier. 

Even if the COVID-19 virus is not detected in your community, you should still follow all local, state and federal social distancing and masking rules. If you feel sick, get yourself tested, and plan to get the vaccine as soon as you are able. For more information on the Sewer Sentinel Initiative, please visit:

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MDE Exercises Enforcement Discretion Carefully

During the global pandemic, the Maryland Department of the Environment has exercised its enforcement discretion on a careful and limited basis. Protection of public health and the environment is the priority with each individual decision. The department, unlike the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, did not issue a broad, upfront policy on Covid-related leniency and that fact has helped significantly in reducing the number of Maryland entities seeking delays or waivers.

Most requests to date have asked for flexibility on the timing of monitoring reports due to the closure of facilities and reduction of staffing. A total of 63% of the requests submitted to the agency were for extensions of time to submit reports, 16% for digital reporting, and 6% for change of operating hours. A total of 72% of the requests have been granted, 16% denied and 12% are pending. The agency received requests from Maryland’s largest utilities – WSSC and the local jurisdictions Baltimore City and Baltimore County – for relief from their obligations under consent decrees to reduce sewage overflows. None of those requests have been granted.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is committed to compliance assurance and enforcement of relevant state and federal requirements. MDE has been in contact with the regulated community to respond to questions and provide feedback about permit requirements and compliance. In some cases, a failure to comply with a permit during the Covid-19 pandemic was referred to the compliance staff to enforce the conditions of the permit and Maryland law. These enforcement actions may have resulted in fines, additional inspections, or orders to take corrective actions to mitigate any impacts. Other requests have resulted in more effective and efficient communication between MDE and the regulated community. Digital reporting and signatures will now improve standard operating procedures. Some of the extensions sought relief for closed buildings. Sampling water in a closed school, for instance, is not useful, however, working with schools to ensure that drinking water is safe for returning students is an important way that MDE can support the state's reopening strategy.

Click here​to view the requests and actions taken.

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Electronically Accepted Permit Applications

​For information regarding Electronically Accepted Permit Applications please click here.
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Public Information Act Requests

For information regarding Public Information Act requests please click here.​

 
 

Water, Wastewater, and Industrial Wastewater Operator Certification​

All certifications that expired on or after April 1, 2020 have been considered active under the Governor's Executive Order to administratively renew operators' certifications. This extension will terminate on June 30, 2021. Late fees will resume on July 1, 2021.

All certifications that expired on January 1, 2020, through and including March 1, 2020, were within the 90-day grace period at the time the Executive Order was issued and are considered inactive. For these certifications, the reinstatement period will resume on July 1, 2021.​

All other certifications expired as of December 31, 2019, are considered inactive. Certificates beyond the 90-day grace period are considered in reinstatement for two years after the expiration date. Certificates beyond the two year reinstatement period may not be renewed.

Click here​​ to read more​. Questions should be directed to the Board of Waterworks and Waste Systems Operators at wwso.board@maryland.gov

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