Builders: Did Stormwater Rules Get Eased?

by Thomas M. Farasy
President, Maryland State Builders Association

We object to the characterization of easing of the stormwater pollution rules. The rules, as one of the speakers noted, were strengthened by adding the outside construction date of 2017 in the now adopted emergency regulations.

The news media should promote a discussion of facts, not the emotional rhetoric of certain constituents whose real agenda is to stop development. Simply stopping growth would lead to further recessionary impacts in Maryland and hinder the Chesapeake Bay clean up effort by eliminating redevelopment and retrofit opportunities.

So what are the facts with regards to New Development:

1. Testimony by MDE has indicated that new development for the past twenty years has kept stormwater runoff in place.

2. Testimony by MDE has indicated that over 95% of the nitrogen and phosphorous come from sources other than new development; which is NOT part of the new stormwater regulations.

3. A review of the EPA’s Watershed Model No. 5.2 reveals that the population in the Bay Shed states grew by 10% from 1990 to 2000 and the impervious area grew by 14%; not the inaccurate inflammatory 8%/41% that was used in the testimony Tuesday.

The more significant contributor is in existing communities and development. Over time, there are many communities where the stormwater structures have been abandoned, not maintained properly or removed; and further, in some older developments, they do have any stormwater systems!

In 2008 (again, all years showed consistent trends), Existing Communities/Development in Maryland, according to the EPA’s Watershed Model Phase 5.2, accounted for –

• Existing Communities/Development accounted for 1,474,033 acres of Land Use or 25% of the total 5,900,000 acres in Maryland;

• Existing Communities/Development contributed 11,663,488 pounds of Nitrogen or 20% of the total 58,000,000 pounds;

• In addition to the contribution from existing communities/development, existing septic fields contributed 5,222,369 pounds of Nitrogen or 9% of the total 58,000,000 pounds;

• Existing Communities/Development contributed 1,003,564 pounds of Phosphorus or 32% of the total 3,155,000 pounds; and

• Existing Communities/Development contributed 341,867 pounds of Sediment or 33% of the total 1,025,000 pounds

Some of the special interest groups have been implying that new development should bear the full burden of providing the fix for existing retrofit/communities. The costs are too great and the industry is unable to pass all of the costs along in any market pricing model.

The study also noted that in order to reach the 2010 tributary strategy goal, urban Total Nitrogen loading and urban Total Phosphorus loading must each be reduced by approximately 19.5% from 2008 loading levels. Using a gross ballpark assumption that Builders (through redevelopment) can reduce the stormwater loadings of both Total Nitrogen and Total Phosphorous to 50% below current loading rates, 39% (or approximately 575,000 acres) of all urban and suburban land must be redeveloped to reach the 2010 tributary strategy goal.

At the current construction rate of approximately 8,500 acres/year and assuming that 100% of all development is redevelopment, it would take approximately 70 years to meet the 2010 urban tributary strategy for Total Nitrogen and Total Phosphorous.

Unfortunately, the single act of adopting adjustments to the ESD stormwater regulations for new development will not accomplish cleaning the Bay! Much more must be done to retrofit existing communities, alter our practices of fertilizing our lawns, and provide the revenue sourcing that address the problems at hand.

Thomas M. Farasy is President of the Maryland State Builders Association.

Read previous Center Maryland op-eds by Thomas M. Farasy:

What are the real facts?

Are jobs really a priority?