Nottingham Ridge: An Example Why Bay Recovery Progresses So Slowly?

Nottingham Ridge, overall

Nottingham Ridge PUD


Muddy Water Discharged From Nottingham Ridge Site

Nottingham Ridge is an 83-acre Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposed for a site adjoining Whitemarsh Run, in Baltimore County, MD.  The site also drains to the Bird and Gunpowder Rivers, then the Chesapeake Bay.  Presently, two office buildings occupy a small percentage of the site.  A development company is proposing to intensively build-out the site.

The project would needlessly add a tremendous quantity of nutrients and other pollutants to the Gunpowder and Chesapeake Bay.  The site has also been needlessly discharging large amounts of muddy water (like that pictured to the left)  for more than a decade!  Why the emphasis on the word needlessly?

N GraphExcessive Pollutant Loads From Antiquated BMPs

Well, consider this graph which shows the amount of nitrogen released from the site annually under five scenarios.  Nitrogen is one of three pollutants damaging the Bay and the Gunpowder River.  As the label implies, No Control shows the release of 827 pounds of nitrogen a year if the site were developed without any aquatic resource protection measures.  The middle three scenarios reflect the three evolutions of stormwater management since it was first adopted in Maryland in the 1980s.  While the forest load is provided as a reference, the closer you get to this lowest load the more rapid our waters will recover from past pollution levels.

In 1982, Maryland adopted a law requiring the use of ponds, infiltration and other stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) on all new development sites.  As shown in this graph, 1980’s measures were designed to treat the first Stormwater Evolutionhalf-inch of runoff from buildings, roads and other impervious surfaces.  The year 2000 Maryland Stormwater Design Manual required treatment of the first inch of runoff with pollutant removal measures.  In 2007, Maryland adopted Environmental Site Design (ESD) which requires treatment of generally the first two inches of runoff with highly-effective pollutant removal measures.   The 2000 and ESD measures would treat 84% and 96%, respectively, of all runoff.

Project Only Required To Meet 1980s Requirements; Not ESD!

Unfortunately, Nottingham Ridge is one of 360 projects waived (exempted) from complying with Environmental Site Design requirements by Baltimore County.  With ESD the nitrogen load would be reduced by 69% instead of the proposed 25% reduction using 1980s control.

Baltimore County has and continues to make a tremendous investment in the restoration of Whitemarsh Run – the stream adjoining the site – as well as the Bird and Gunpowder Rivers.  It makes no sense for the County to spend large sums restoring these waters then waive the pollution control measures critical to allowing restoration to progress.

Even more confusing is the apparent decision by the County to allow the project to proceed with 1980s control.  The project should instead be required to meet the requirements set forth in the 2000 Maryland Stormwater Design Manual.  Were 2000 requirements met then nitrogen loads would be reduced by 45%!  While  not as good as the 69% ESD reduction, 2000 compliance would be far better than the proposed 25% reduction using 1980s design criteria.

The Nottingham Ridge developer and owner were asked to voluntarily upgrade stormwater management measures.  Though a few token improvements were offered, these measures did not change the 1980s nitrogen loads shown in the graph above.  The Nottingham Ridge project is presently before the Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for Development Plan approval.  The ALJ may have the authority to require compliance with Environmental Site Design.  The White Marsh-Cowenton Community Association is opposing the project and has hired an attorney to represent them before the ALJ.

More Than A Decade of Excessive Mud Pollution

2002 Exposed Soil = 90%

2008 Exposed Soil = 70%

2014 July 27

2014 Exposed Soil = 30%

Since at least 1994, all completed construction sites in Maryland have been required to stabilize all disturbed soils with a minimum 95% ground cover, which is usually grass.  In other words, you should not be able to see underlying soils over a minimum of 95% of a site.  In the 2002 photo on the right you see the Nottingham Ridge site as it appeared about a year after the main roads and one building was completed.  By 2002, the entire site should have been green except for the roads and rooftop.  Instead the 2002 photo shows 90% of the 83-acre site to be  bare or sparsely vegetated soil.  The 1994 standards required the owner to reseed, mulch, fertilize and irrigate until 95% ground cover was achieved.  By 2008, as shown in the photo to the right, about 70% of the site is still exposed, eroding earth.  And the 2014 photo (taken July 27th) shows that at least 30% of the soils on the site are still exposed to erosive force.  In other words, the site had never been stabilized as required and was allowed to erode away for more than a decade!


Massive Gully On The Nottingham Ridge Site

The gully pictured below is a consequence of more than a decade of poorly controlled erosion on the Nottingham Ridge site.  While the entire site does drain to two sediment basins, like the one shown below, these basins only remove a portion of the soil eroded from the poorly vegetated site.  Clays and other fine soil particles will not settle in the basin, nor will dissolved pollutants.  Instead, each time a storm causes the basin to overflow these pollutants wash downstream into Bird River, the Gunpowder River and the Chesapeake.  Had the entire 83 acres been stabilized with a dense grass cover as required, soil losses and offsite pollution would have been reduced by up to 99%!

Muddy Pond copy

This Nottingham Ridge Sediment Pond Cannot Remove Clay & Other Fine Particles Nor the Pollutants Attached to These Sediments

The developer and owner of the site were asked by the Essex-Middle River Civic Council to voluntarily stabilize the site.  However, the developer only agreed to stop erosion on a small portion of the site.  Therefore, the lack of better erosion control on the Nottingham Ridge site was brought to the attention of the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.  Unfortunately, Baltimore County has taken the position that since the site drains to two sediment basins there is no need to stabilize the massive areas of exposed, eroding soil.  Fortunately, the Maryland Department of the Environment does not agree with the County’s position.  Therefore, we have referred the matter to MDE’s Compliance Program.

What You Can Do:

  1. Write to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamentz and urge him to:
    1. require that this project meet Environmental Site Design requirements; and
    2. order the owner to bring the site into compliance with the law by immediately stabilizing the entire 83 acres so the massive erosion will come to a halt;
  2. If you live in the Bird or Gunpowder River area then write to County Council member David Marks and County Council member Cathy Bevins.  Urge them to take the same actions (A and B) as above.
  3. Please cc us on your message and forward any responses you receive to:
  4. Support the White Marsh-Cowenton Community Association in their legal challenge to this project;
  5. Attend the next hearing and urge the Administrative Law Judge to require compliance with Environmental Site Design requirements; and
  6. Let us know if you’re interested in this or related issues by sending an e-mail to:



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Why Your Help Is So Urgently Needed: The 4th Street Rain Garden Saga

The 4th Street Rain Garden

The 4th Street Rain Garden

After 8 Months It’s Finally Restored

The following article was posted last March.  A few weeks ago the 4th Street Rain Garden was finally restored, thanks to the City of Annapolis.  So, one BMP restored; several tens of thousands in the Chesapeake watershed to go.

Restoring the Bay is dependent upon keeping thousands of Best Management Practices (BMPs) working.  The following article illustrates why this task cannot be accomplished without a tremendous increase in public participation.  It shows how even the most dedicated agencies cannot cope with a tremendous workload.  It also shows how even the most Bay-knowledgeable among us are not aware of this need, which speaks loudly to the need for better public education. Continue reading

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Challenges of Supporting Agriculture & Reducing Farm Pollution

Maryland and other Bay jurisdictions now require keeping cattle out of streams.

Maryland and other Bay jurisdictions now require keeping cattle out of streams.

In the 1970s I had the honor of serving on the Baltimore County Soil Conservation District Board of Supervisors.  I was the “urban” supervisor.  My four fellow Board members were farm owners.  At first our relationship was strained to say the least.  But as I came to understand the difficulties farmers faced and that they cared for land as much as me (perhaps more so), I developed a deep respect for these people and the dedicated, underpaid District employees who support the farming community.

There are 122 Districts throughout the Bay watershed who employ about a thousand people serving on the front lines of the effort to reduce agricultural nutrients and sediment while keeping farms in business.  However, excessive paperwork and a lack of enforcement authority makes the task of convincing farm owners to implement practices challenging, to say the least.  This is particularly true when those practices may not increase farm profits or could even cost the farm owner money.  To learn more about the vitally important work performed by the Districts, the challenges they face in restoring the Bay, and why it is critical that each of us actively support our local District (especially when local budgets are debated)  see: Don’t Fence Me In: The Race to Save Chesapeake Bay.

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MAPP Transmission Line Haunts Landowners & Ratepayers

PHITowerPhotoA few years ago CEDS helped organize a 40-member coalition of local, state and national organizations who had a number of very serious questions about a $1.2 billion, multistate transmission line project known as MAPP (Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway).  This project was mostly about opening up markets in New York and New Jersey to electricity produced by Midwest coal-fired power plants.  Had this and related projects been built it would have increased climate-changing gas emissions, increased electricity costs and arguably made our electric grid more vulnerable to outages.

We thought MAPP was defeated and gone for good in 2012.  However, a recent decision will require electricity customers in Maryland and 12 other states to reimburse PEPCO for $80.5 million in expenses for this failed project.  Also, large tracts of land in Maryland are held in easements obtained to construct the transmission line making it easier for MAPP proponents to resurrect this project in the future.

For further detail see PJM Consumers on the Hook for $80.5M for Failed MAPP Project.

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YouTube Presentations & Workshops To Accelerate Restoration of Your Favorite Waters

Big Six Pollution Sources

The title slide from the Big Six Pollution Sources training presentation

CEDS has uploaded three narrated presentations to YouTube that would allow both volunteers and watershed organization staff to quickly learn how to:

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BMP Coops & Watershed Groups: A Solution to the Stormwater Maintenance Dilemma?

Well maintained stormwater ponds can be valuable assets to homeowner association members. Photo courtesy of Foster Lake & Pond Management

Well maintained stormwater ponds can be valuable assets to homeowner association members. Photo courtesy of Foster Lake & Pond Management

THE PROBLEM:  There may be 100,000 stormwater ponds and other Best Management Practices (BMPs) throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  While no one knows for certain, lack of maintenance may have caused a substantial portion to fail.  If this is true then large quantities of pollution are needlessly entering the Bay and her tributary waters.  Most BMPs are privately owned and maintained.  In some jurisdictions a staff of inspectors visit each BMP every three years or so.  These visits help the owner understand the importance of the BMP and maintenance needs.  The owner is then provided with a list of contractors who have the expertise and equipment needed to resolve any maintenance issues.   Most issues are resolved quickly without the need for enforcement action. Continue reading

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Restoring 4600 Miles of Maryland Degraded Waters & the Stormwater Fee

Darkest red areas have the most intense development and the most stormwater-polluted waters; yet all could be restored with the stormwater fee.

Darkest red areas have the most intense development and the most stormwater-polluted waters; yet all could be restored with the stormwater fee.

Though no Maryland home is more than a 15-minute walk from the nearest waterway, the waters closest to 70% of us are unfit for our use due to stormwater pollution and related impacts.  The stormwater fee could restore many of these waters in a few decades.  Imagine, residents of the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore City, Frederick or College Park being able to wade, fish or swim in neighborhood waters without fear of contracting a disease.  But achieving this and many other benefits depends upon the fee and spending the funds very wisely.  It also depends upon achieving a high level of compliance with Maryland’s new Environmental Site Design (ESD) requirements.  It is for these reasons that the Maryland General Assembly must not rescind the stormwater fee law. Continue reading

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