Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (October 13, 2005) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Information Exchange Network to develop a web-based system for sharing water data between various laboratories, counties, state agencies, and EPA. MDE will be the gatekeeper in incorporating data that will lead to improved access and a better understanding of surface and ground water conditions.

“Marylanders have the right to enjoy clean, healthy water for drinking, swimming and fishing,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “MDE’s integrated approach will allow rapid reporting of water contaminants to more quickly identify situations requiring regulatory action. The automated data flow will virtually eliminate transcription errors and make the data more quickly available for evaluation. More staff time will then be available for evaluating the data, rather than spending time on entering it into the computer system.”

This pilot project will enable the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and private laboratories to transfer data directly, and in real-time, to MDE and four counties. This system will include public drinking water, private wells and ambient surface water.

“The department will also be working with federal agencies and national organizations to apply the system statewide and transfer data to national databases,” said Dr. Betty Dabney, Environmental Health Researcher in MDE’s Technical and Regulatory Services Administration. “This data will help state and local agencies improve their access to water quality data and better plan for response to potential public health concerns.”

MDE established a centralized database several years ago, for general surface water quality using a locally managed version of EPA's STORET (STOage & RETeval) system. This grant applies to the exchange and management of water quality data collected for private drinking (wells), public drinking water, and STORET.

As part of MDE’s efforts to improve the flow of all environmental data, MDE implemented a similar system two years ago that allows chemical storage information to be submitted online. This past year, also utilizing EPA funds, MDE’s Beach Program enhanced beach water quality sampling and monitoring, and streamlined the public notification process with a publicly available web-based system providing the status of water quality at Maryland’s beaches. Laboratory results are automatically entered into a database, so that county beach managers can access it immediately to make quick public health decisions, such as advisories or closures.

The $750,000 grant is classified as a Challenge Grant, given to projects that are especially innovative and involve coordination between many partners.