Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (Jan. 20, 2006) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) today begins the public review and comment period for the draft “Maryland’s 2006 List of Impaired Surface Waters [303(d) List] and Integrated Assessment of Water Quality.” The draft report describes the State’s ongoing efforts to monitor, assess, track and restore the chemical, physical and biological integrity of its surface waters.

Every two years, in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, MDE submits to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a comprehensive list of waters that meet State water quality standards, do not meet water quality standards, or do not have sufficient data to make a determination. The 303(d) list identifies segments of a waterbody that do not currently meet water quality standards and may require the State to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). TMDLs specify the amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can absorb and the amount of pollutant that must be reduced to achieve water quality standards in order to be removed from the list of impaired waters.

“The biennial impaired waters list is one part of Maryland’s comprehensive water quality management process. It helps us to identify problem areas in our watershed so we can better target our resources to improve water quality,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “We look forward to working with our local and federal partners to make Maryland a national model for water quality protection and restoration.”

This year marks a transition period for implementing Maryland’s new water quality standards and salinity-based water segmentation assessment scheme for the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. During the transition process, MDE is coordinating the data collection and monitoring effort with other State agencies to properly assess the multiple criteria designed to assess the Bay’s water quality. The Chesapeake Bay and tidal tributary segments are presented in a new format to clarify the assessment of the many new uses; the tributaries may also be listed in the typical watershed section.

Seven hundred thirty-three waterbody segments are now identified as impaired; 145 of these are new to the 2006 303(d) List. One hundred twelve of the new listings are for biological impairments in small to medium non-tidal streams. Identifying the causes of these impairments and working with local jurisdictions and interested stakeholders to implement remedial actions is a priority for the State. Twenty-four of the new impairments are due to elevated bacterial concentrations in public beach waters (11 listings), shellfish harvesting areas (nine) and recreational contact waters (four). Of the nine remaining new listings, seven are for PCBs in fish and two for metals. The additional impairment listings do not necessarily indicate a decline in the State’s overall water quality but rather reflect increased monitoring, newer water quality or resource data, and new improvements in assessment techniques.

Many of the impairments determined through additional monitoring are due to a combination of changes in land use and increased population density and resulting nonpoint source pollution, which is why the State has been proactive in correcting these issues. Governor Ehrlich’s fiscal year 2007 budget includes more than $400 million to address nonpoint source pollution control programs including accelerating new funding for additional land preservation efforts and agricultural programs, nearly doubling the amount of cover crops planted; and more funding for the Tributary Strategies implementation; all which play an important role in restoring the waters of the Bay. The budget also includes targeted investments to help restore the Chesapeake Bay, including the first-in-the-region Corsica River Restoration Project, which seeks to remove the Corsica from the EPA’s list of impaired waters by concentrating federal, state, local and non-profit efforts on a single river.

The “2006 Draft 303(d) List of Impaired Waters” will be available for a 45-day public review and comment period from Jan. 20 through March 8, 2006. Public meetings are scheduled for Feb. 16 in Baltimore, Feb. 22 in Hagerstown, and Feb. 23 in Salisbury. MDE plans to submit the 303(d) List to EPA for approval in April.

For information on how and where to find the draft document, or for details on the public meetings, please visit MDE’s 303d web page.