Protect Maryland Communities from Polluted Industrial Runoff

Increasing rainfall due to climate change is supercharging the pollution coming off of industrial sites, leading to serious health impacts on nearby communities. Too often, clusters of industrial facilities are located in low-income communities of color, unjustly over burdening them with pollution. Right now, Maryland has a new opportunity to create a permit that protects our waterways and some of our most vulnerable community members.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is accepting public comments until Saturday, November 25 on the general permit (Discharge Permit No. 20-SW) that regulates the stormwater coming off of industrial facilities. The pollution coming off of these industrial sites include toxic substances like mercury, PFAS, and heavy metals that can have serious health impacts. This permit single-handedly regulates pollution from nearly 300 facilities in the Baltimore region, where residents are consistently hardest hit by the compounding factors of climate change, systemic disinvestment, and toxic contamination. There are over 100 industrial sites in the Gunpowder, Bush, Bird, and Middle River watersheds. All of these sites cumulatively impact downstream, underserved communities and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Overall, this permit governs more than 1,400 Maryland industrial facilities.

In December 2022, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Blue Water Baltimore, Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper and several other partners filed a lawsuit against the new flawed general permit. As a result, MDE opened up a new comment period addressing specific climate and environmental justice areas of the permit, including

  • weak environmental justice provisions added in the final permit

  • the final permit’s reliance on outdated rainfall data

  • no-exposure requirements were weakened in the final permit

We urge you to submit comments by November 25 demanding the MDE amend the permit to address these critical issues. This is not the time to go backwards on environmental justice and to ignore climate science.