Opinion: Stormwater Pollution Regression Is Disheartening

The Bay Bridge over the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland Transportation Authority photo

Reading that Maryland’s efforts to mitigate stormwater pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay have regressed is disheartening, to say the least. The state’s lowering of pollution-reduction targets shows a lack of care for and understanding of the many serious effects stormwater pollution has on the environment and public health. 

In 2018, of the 158 beach sites along the Chesapeake Bay shore that were sampled to determine contamination levels, 79 were deemed to have numbers so high that they were unsafe for swimming at least one day that year. This contamination, largely due to the effects of runoff pollution and sewage, affects the health not only of the sea life in the Bay, but of Marylanders who want to enjoy a nice day on the water. 

Contamination of our beaches and waterways from runoff and sewage is a widespread problem found across the United States. Each year, the pollutants cause around 57 million cases of illness. 

It is clear that Maryland, and the United States as a whole, is in desperate need of increased water infrastructure in order to prevent contaminants from entering waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay. The U. S. House of Representatives recently passed an additional $11 billion in Environmental Protection Agency funding for increased water infrastructure — money that would go toward that cause. 

Senators from Chesapeake Bay watershed states should be keen to pass such important funding, especially considering the increase in stormwater runoff, a pollutant that has threatened the Bay since the start of the Bay cleanup 36 years ago.

Additionally, the Maryland Department of the Environment must reassert their commitment to preserving the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay, and decreasing pollution from stormwater is central to that goal.

— SACHA CAMERON

The writer is a State Fellow with Environment Maryland.