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Grant Program Designed to Keep Bay Clean

Stormwater pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is harmful to wildlife. (USGS)
Stormwater pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is harmful to wildlife. (USGS)
August 10, 2016

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - You can't always see pollution, and many times it comes from places you wouldn't expect. One major type of nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay continues to grow: untreated stormwater runoff from blacktop roofs and other hardened surfaces. Rain hits these roofs, then falls into local waterways, which feed into the Bay.

The City of Gaithersburg is the latest to team up with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to help businesses, nonprofit groups and residents prevent that.

Meredith Strider, the environmental specialist with the Department of Public Works for the City of Gaithersburg, said a lot of people don't realize how easily water is polluted.

"What you're doing on your property, whether it's applying fertilizers or pesticides, as simple as washing your car, not having an oil leak fixed," she said. "All of that will go directly into our local waterways, which then flow into the Potomac River and into the Chesapeake Bay."

Grant money is available through the Chesapeake Bay Trust for projects, including rain gardens and landscaping projects that collect the water, to keep polluted run-off from the Bay. Bioretention cells, bioswales, streamside forest buffers and green roofs are other ideas that could receive funding.

Strider said the program is crucial because pollution is wreaking havoc on wildlife.

"Where there's a lot of concentrated development you really see the impacts the wildlife in the streams from the little bugs that feed the fish, if they can't tolerate the pollution that's going in then you aren't able to support the fish that live there and some of the larger animals that depend on the fish to survive," she explained.

Suburban and urban runoff is responsible for thousands of miles of waterways that are so polluted they are considered impaired under the federal Clean Water Act. This includes 2,590 miles in Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay Trust has about a million dollars set aside for projects around the state that reduce polluted stormwater runoff.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD