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Blue Water Congregations: Baltimore's stormwater management mentor

Urban runoff only Chesapake Bay pollution still increasing
Urban runoff only Chesapake Bay pollution still increasingChesapeake Bay Commission's "Halfway to 2017" Report, page 5

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and Blue Water Baltimore, in collaboration with Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works, recently hosted Walk the Talk: An Interfaith Response to Polluted Runoff. The presentation’s primary focus was to launch the new Blue Water Congregations stormwater program and speakers also provided an overview of Maryland’s new stormwater fee and the Baltimore City Religious Structure fee reduction which is available to all congregations (download the two pdf files for details on how to apply.)

If you missed the program, read on to learn about Blue Water Congregations' need-to-know topics that will help your organization successfully reduce stormwater pollution and associated fees and implement other green programs at your place of worship and beyond.

If your congregation is located outside Baltimore City and County, you will find a useful list of your area’s stormwater support team offered by the University of Maryland’s Extension program.

To set the tone for the event, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s Jodi Rose shared a quote from the novelist Wendell Berry: “Treat those downstream as you’d want those upstream to treat you.”

Why did Maryland implement a stormwater fee?

As the chart above illustrates, stormwater runoff is the Chesapeake Bay’s only pollutant still on the rise. Previous clean-up efforts, such as the 2004 legislated “flush fee”, have significantly reduced pollution amounts into the Chesapeake Bay.

Stormwater pollution occurs when rain drains off hard, or impervious, surfaces carrying trash, heat, animal waste, pesticides and toxins directly into storm drains which then dump untreated stormwater into the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore City, unlike Philadelphia, has separate systems for sewage and stormwater; sewage is treated, stormwater is not. Did you know that half of Baltimore City is now covered by impervious surfaces?

What’s the stormwater fee and how is it calculated?

The stormwater fee can be found on quarterly water bills and is based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a property. The fee will provide a sustainable, dedicated revenue source for reducing and treating stormwater pollution as mandated under the federal Clean Water Act and state laws.

Has your congregation applied for the lower religious organization rates?

Click here for a detailed article outlining Baltimore City's stormwater fee and the reductions and credits available to all Baltimore City congregations. Two-thirds of congregations have NOT applied for Religious Structure Special Fee Reduction and possible credits. All congregations must apply for the Religious Structure Special Fee Reduction which reduce stormwater fees on non-taxable buildings used as places of worship or K-12 education; reductions are not automatic or retroactive.

What is Baltimore Blue Congregations?

The overarching purpose of the Maryland’s stormwater legislation is to reduce, treat or clean stormwater pollution before it enters waterways. If property owners take steps to reduce impervious surfaces, or capture and filter stormwater in rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens and other approved projects, Baltimore City will reduce your property’s fee.

Stormwater projects can be confusing, but the good news is that two local Baltimore non-profits have stepped in and created Blue Water Congregations to guide Baltimore City and County congregations to the path of stormwater success.

Blue Water Baltimore and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake developed the turn-key Blue Water Congregations with funding from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The program is offered to congregations in the Gwynn Falls, Jones Falls, Herring Run and Baltimore Harbor watersheds. Click here for a map outlining these watersheds.

Blue Water Congreagations provides free technical, design, financial and landscape expertise and their consultants that can walk your congregation through the stormwater process from A to Z. The first step in the process is a free water audit to determine your site’s potential for managing stormwater pollution in a more eco-friendly manner.

Reach Blue Water Congregations by contacting either Bonnie Sorak (bonnie@interfaithchesapeake.org 443-799-0349) at Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake or Ashley Traut (atraut@bluewaterbaltimore.org 410.254.1577) at Blue Water Baltimore.

Faith-based groups making a difference

The stormwater legislation's goal is for Maryland’s water quality to improve to healthy, responsible levels by 2025 illustrated in the graph above. By living faith through actions, Baltimore’s faith-based community can play a key role in reducing stormwater pollution and helping to heal the Chesapeake Bay.

Water Restorations specialists available for congregations outside Baltimore

If your congregation is outside of Blue Water Congregation's area, your best bet is to contact the University of Maryland’s Extension Sea Grant watershed restoration specialists (listed below).

This water restoration team is tasked with providing your group technical and organizational expertise in collaboration with your local and state governments and watershed and community groups. Sea Grant watershed specialists help identify funding sources, and consult in the planning, implementation and monitoring of stormwater projects.

Find your area SeaGrant watershed restoration specialist below:

Jennifer Dindinger (Lower Eastern Shore: Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties) jdinding@umd.edu (240) 393-7915

Amanda Rockler (Central Maryland: Frederick, Howard, and Montgomery Counties) arockler@umd.edu (240) 393-8346

Jennifer Dindinger (Mid and Upper Eastern Shore: Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, and Talbot Counties) jdinding@umd.edu (240) 393-7915

Jackie Takacs (Southern Maryland: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George's, and St. Mary's Counties) takacs@mdsg.umd.edu (240) 393-6508

Krisztian Varsa (Northern Maryland: Baltimore, Carroll, and Harford Counties and Baltimore City) kvarsa@umd.edu (410)-771-1761