Erosion and Sediment Control


When soil is exposed to the impacts of rainfall, there is an increase in the volume and velocity of runoff.  This sets off a chain reaction that results in the transport and deposition of sediment, reduced stream capacity, and ultimately increased stream scour and flooding. Additionally, suspended sediment contributes to a decline in water quality by blocking sunlight, reducing photosynthesis, decreasing plant growth, destroying bottom dwelling species’ habitat, carrying attached pollutants such as phosphorous, and so on. The list of negative impacts is long. 

Erosion and Sediment Control practices though temporary protect water resources from sediment pollution and increases in runoff associated with active land development and redevelopment activities. By retaining soil on-site, sediment and attached nutrients are prevented from leaving disturbed areas and polluting streams. The majority of this construction occurs in urban areas within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed therefore, managing and maintaining quality runoff from construction activity minimizes any resulting impacts to receiving water and is critical to Maryland’s ability to reduce the levels of nutrients and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay. ​​ 

Legislation, established to protect Maryland waters from various pollutants, has existed since the early 1930s. In 1961, the Maryland’s Attorney General determined sediment to be a pollutant. This determination was based upon an interpretation of a 1957 State statute and authorized sediment control regulations to be developed. A statewide sediment control program was mandated in 1970 when the General Assembly passed the Sediment Control Law. From a historical perspective, Maryland’s incentive for having an erosion and sediment control program is the Chesapeake Bay. From a practical standpoint, federal involvement via the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) provides an incentive for State and local program development.  The Chesapeake Bay initiatives in 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and the NPDES municipal stormwater program have stimulated additional emphasis.

The program developed in 1970 is essentially the same that exists today with an approved plan being required for any earth disturbance of 5,000 square feet or more and 100 cubic yards or more; plan approval exemptions for agricultural uses; plan review and approval by local Soil Conservation Districts (SCD); grading ordinance adoption by local jurisdictions; utility construction inspection by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC); and criminal penalties for sediment pollution.  Various programmatic improvements have included requiring sediment control plan approval prior to issuing grading and building permits (1973); requiring training and certification of "responsible personnel" (1980); shifting enforcement authority from local to State control and establishing delegation criteria (1984); requiring NPDES stormwater discharge permits for construction activity (1991); subjecting agricultural land management practices to enforcement action for sediment pollution (1992); and increasing stabilization requirements from 7-14 days to 3-7 days (2011). 

Maryland’s Erosion Control Law and regulations specify the general provisions for program implementation; procedures for delegation of enforcement authority; requirements for erosion and sediment control ordinances; exemptions from plan approval requirements; requirements for training and certification programs; criteria for plan submittal, review, and approval; and procedures for inspection and enforcement. Proper design, installation, and maintenance of erosion and sediment control practices is essential to having an effective program.  MDE has established minimum criteria for effective erosion and sediment control practices.  The 2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control are incorporated by reference into State regulations and serve as the official guide for erosion and sediment control principles, methods, and practices.


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