Report: Maryland’s Water Pollution Enforcement Is on the Decline


Maryland’s enforcement of water pollution laws has declined over the last two decades, but especially in the last few years, according to a new report.

Environmental groups found that the Maryland Department of the Environment took 422 water pollution enforcement actions between 2016 and 2021 under Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), which was significantly lower than the 1,280 enforcement actions between 2010 and 2015, during the administration of Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D).

In the past year alone, MDE took 55% fewer water pollution enforcement actions than the historical average over the last 20 years, according to the report by the Chesapeake Accountability Project, a coalition of environmental groups. The coalition reviewed the Department of the Environment’s annual enforcement and compliance reports from 2001 to 2021 “to provide a historical perspective of [water pollution] enforcement in Maryland,” said Katlyn Schmitt, a policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform.

But the decrease in enforcement actions does not mean that there are fewer pollution violations, and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay remains a concern, the group said.

The environmental groups focused on actions made by the Water and Science Administration within MDE, which is responsible for regulating stormwater from industrial facilities such as processing plants and landfills, from which harmful chemicals can flow into local waterways after it rains. Enforcement action can include penalty fines and referral to the Attorney General for potential litigation.

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Maryland Matters, 10 March 2022