BALTIMORE, MD (January 25, 2010) -- The Maryland Department of the Environment is looking for volunteers who want to help restore the Chesapeake Bay by fighting water pollution.
MDE’s Volunteer Enforcement Corps is expanding as it enters its second year of work to monitor and reduce sediment pollution carried by stormwater runoff to Maryland waterways. The program seeks talented, energetic and detail-minded individuals with an interest in protecting Maryland’s waterways.
“This program provides an opportunity for citizens to play a role in our efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, an issue that affects us all,” MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson said. “The volunteers in the program’s first year tangibly increased our ability to enforce environmental laws and deter future violations. We look forward to building on that success with an expanded roster of volunteers.”
The program, launched in February 2009, is a partnership of MDE and Volunteer Maryland, an Americorps program of the Governor’s Office. Nineteen volunteers have worked a total of more than 670 hours – providing more than $13,600 in work, based on the standard value of volunteer work. Past volunteers have included students and professionals seeking employment – all who want to make a difference.
Members of the Volunteer Enforcement Corps are part of Maryland’s efforts to improve how stormwater is controlled during construction -- when the potential for waterway degradation from sediment is a primary concern. Urban and suburban runoff contribute 16 percent of Maryland's nitrogen load to the Bay. Stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing source of Bay pollution.
The volunteers audit site inspection logs required under MDE’s General Permit for Stormwater Discharge Associated with Construction to help MDE identify matters that require further review. The program employs technology to streamline the process to allow for fast action that increases compliance with permit requirements.
Volunteer Maryland is building partnerships with local high schools, whose students can count the time spent volunteering toward their service requirements, along with colleges and retirement communities.
“The volunteer program gives students a chance to gain experience and enhance their resumes, and it gives anyone participating a chance to better understand how government works for everyone,” said Dan Miller, Volunteer Maryland coordinator for MDE. “More than that, it’s a chance to help the environment.”
Charles McCollister, a 47-year-old former federal government worker who says he is interested in a career change, has been a member of the Volunteer Corps since April 2009. He said: “I enjoy volunteering at the MDE because polluted stormwater has a big negative impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and I hope that the program will be one part of the solution to restore the Bay and its watershed.”
Funding to support development of the program was provided by the Keith Campbell Foundation.
For more information, go to mde.maryland.gov/CitizensInfoCenter/Volunteering/vec.asp or visit the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Volunteer Enforcement Corps on Facebook.