Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Clarksburg Water Quality Issues Update

Yesterday, the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, which I chair, heard a briefing on the water quality issues in Clarksburg as identified in the Special Protection Area Program Annual Report.

The Special Protection Area (SPA) program has been in place since 1994 and monitors four geographic areas with high quality or unusually sensitive water resources. Although the report also documents findings in the Paint Branch, Piney Branch and Upper Rock Creek areas, we focused our briefing on Clarksburg and Ten Mile Creek as this area showed a decline in water quality despite the use of best management practices (BMPs) for sediment and erosion control (during construction) and stormwater management (post-construction).

These results are important, not just because of our mission to protect the environment, but also because the SPA report is one of the factors to be considered before development in the Stage 4 area of Clarksburg (Ten Mile Creek) is allowed to move forward according to the Clarksburg Master Plan.

Stream conditions were in the good to excellent range from 1995 to 2002 in Clarksburg. Now conditions are rated fair to good. The decline is attributed to the unexpected downturn in the construction economy and its consequences on the landscape (rapid start of construction followed by delays, leaving large areas of land disturbed); the fact that most construction-related controls have not been converted from sediment and erosion control to stormwater management; and the density of the development.

We looked at some possible fixes for the near and long term. For example, we may need to site stormwater facilities concurrently with other utilities and infrastructure rather than after roads and other major infrastructure. Also, developers could be given the option to have the Department of Environmental Protection conduct environmental monitoring for a fee, which would allow for more consistency. The County’s Department of Environmental Protection is also working with the Department of Permitting Services to review and improve the BMPs to be employed in future developments.

It is unclear when or whether water quality in the Clarksburg Special Protection Area will recover from development stresses. Essentially, the overall effect of development on the watershed can only be evaluated once construction in the watershed is completed. We do know that we need to stay on top of this issue and tighten controls as much as possible. Before moving forward on any land use decisions, we expect additional recommendations from the Planning Board and the County Executive, so stay tuned.

1 comment:

Jim Fary said...

The SHA in building the ICC has trashed the upper Rock Creek SPA. The State arrogantly said that it was not bound by County regulations. When I worked for the Federal Government, we would respect local law and regulations that were more stringent. The is showing respect. As the ICC enters the Paint Branch, please get the SHA to abide by the Paint Branch SPA. There are over 30 videos on YouTube documenting on-going pollution from construction of the ICC. Just go to the YouTube website and type in "icc sediment" and you can see the videos. Regards, Jim Fary