BALTIMORE, MD (April 10, 2012) – Maryland’s water quality and children’s health were big winners in the 2012 General Assembly session that ended yesterday. Legislation passed to encourage sustainable communities, reduce pollution and advance the mission of eliminating childhood lead poisoning.
The legislation doubling the Bay Restoration Fund fee will make it possible to dramatically reduce levels of nutrient pollution entering Maryland waterways by funding upgrades to the state’s 67 major wastewater treatment plants, upgrades to septic systems and the planting of cover crops. The legislation will also allow for grants to local jurisdictions for cost-efficient stormwater management projects such as tree planting and stream buffers if the jurisdiction has implemented a stormwater utility fee. Stormwater pollution from urban and suburban communities is the source of roughly one-fifth of the nitrogen and phosphorus polluting the Chesapeake Bay. The General Assembly also passed a measure requiring the largest jurisdictions to implement a stormwater utility fee to provide the funding needed to reduce stormwater pollution.
Maryland has made great strides to reduce pollution; however, the one source that has increased is pollution from septic systems. The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 requires jurisdictions to develop land-use plans that will encourage growth in existing communities and preserve large tracts of agricultural and forest land in Maryland. The legislation allows for major subdivisions on septic systems in some circumstances if the local jurisdiction plans for that growth. The local jurisdictions will be required to hold public hearings on their growth plans when their plans differ from the state framework.
Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers called the 90-day General Assembly session "a great one for water quality and children’s health."
"Thanks to the leadership of Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly, these bills help us to protect, restore and support healthy waterways and drinking water while preserving farm and forest land, creating jobs that cannot be outsourced and benefitting Maryland families with clean water for years to come," Summers said. "Clean water and a healthy economy go hand in hand. With this environmentally successful session, we are continuing our record of progress toward reaching our goal of protecting and restoring the quality of Maryland's air, water, and land resources, while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities."
The General Assembly also strengthened Maryland’s laws to protect children’s health by advancing the mission of eliminating childhood lead poisoning.
The lead poisoning prevention legislation will allow MDE to seek delegation to administer a federal rule that regulates renovations, repairs and painting in homes that were built before 1978, whether they are rental units or owner-occupied, and in pre-1978 facilities with young children. The rule requires contractors who do work on these properties to receive training and use safe work practices.
The legislation also requires owners of rental properties built before 1978, when the use of lead paint was prohibited, to register these properties and take steps toward reducing the risk of lead poisoning beginning in January 2015. Maryland’s lead law currently covers rental properties built before 1950, when lead paint was prohibited in Baltimore City.
The percentage of children in Maryland reported to have lead poisoning has decreased 98 percent since 1993, the year before the State's Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law was enacted, but a growing percentage of new lead poisoning cases are linked to homes not covered by the current law.
The legislation also raises the annual registration fee for properties.
Other departmental bills that passed the 2012 Maryland General Assembly include:
- SB0114 - Environment - Controlled Hazardous Substance Driver Certification – Elimination;
- SB0115 - Environment - Waterworks and Wastewater Works Certified Operators (Signed April 10, 2012);
- SB0117 - Environment - Water Appropriation Permits - Construction Dewatering Projects (Signed April 10, 2012);
- HB0186 - Department of the Environment - Permit Proceedings - Judicial Review; And
- HB0190 - Environment - Noise Control