One hundred and forty-five polluted Maryland waterways would be added to a state list under a draft report the Department of the Environment is circulating for public review.
The proposed additions to the biennial Impaired Surface Waters list include 11 public beaches and 13 crabbing or fishing spots.
The additions would bring the number of Maryland waters listed as impaired to 733, up from 659 in 2004. The department is taking public comments through March 8 on the 96-page document, which is available at www.mde.state.md.us.
The MDE said the additional listings don’t 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.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation agreed.
“I think what it reflects is that we are doing more monitoring in more areas of the state—and maybe in segments of the waterways that previously weren’t monitored—and we are finding that there are some problems,” said Jenn Aiosa, a staff scientist with the Annapolis-based environmental group. “Those problems may have been there for quite some time but they’re only now coming to light because we have sufficient data to make a determination.”
She declined to comment on specific findings, saying she was still studying the report.
The document, a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act, identifies waters that either meet or don’t meet state water-quality standards.
“It helps us to identify problem areas in our watershed so we can better target our resources to improve water quality,’’ MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick said in a statement.
Elevated bacterial concentrations at swimming, fishing and crabbing spots led to their inclusion on the list, the MDE said. Those waters include public areas such as the St. Clement’s Shores Community Beach in St. Mary’s County and private venues, including the Chester River Yacht and Country Club Beach in Kent County.
The vast majority of new listings—112—are for biological impairments to small and medium, nontidal streams. Cleaning up those waters is a priority for the state, the MDE said.
As proof, the agency cited the state’s Bay Restoration Fund, which was established in 2004 to help upgrade sewage treatment plants. The report also said the state-subsidized planting of cover crops reduces the amount of nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay as farm fertilizer runoff.
The report says Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s fiscal year 2007 budget includes more than $400 million for programs to control biological and bacterial pollution of waterways. The budget also includes a restoration project for the Corsica River, an impaired tributary of the Chester River in Queen Anne’s County.
Fifteen of the impairments listed in 2004 now meet water-quality standards, said Richard Eskin, the MDE’s director of technical and regulatory services. Since 1996, 48 formerly impaired Maryland waters have been shown to meet water quality standards, the report says.