Abingdon Business Park Notice of Intent for a MDE General Stormwater Permit Stirs Controversy and leads to Coalition Building in Opposition

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to attorney Patrick DeArmey of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance for his tireless work and no less than twelve groups, including adjacent community associations namely; Autumn Run Homeowners’ Association, Red Maple/Van Bibber Neighborhood, Philadelphia Station Homeowners’ Association, Abingdon Reserve Homeowners’ Association, Cokesbury Manor Phase Two, area coalitions and nonprofits including the Stop Abingdon Business Park Coalition, Friends of Harford, Together We Will, Harford County Climate Action, and Joppa Development and Heritage Corporation and Chesapeake Bay regional non-profits including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently signed on in support of Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER’s letter to request denial of a MDE General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity and 40 CFR 122.28 (b)3i for the Notice of Intent (“NOI”) application # MDRCM050E submitted for the Abingdon Business Park.

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Among the issues cited in the letter were due process concerns related to; public notice and public access and how regulated resources like wetlands and buffers will be avoided and minimized that Riverkeeper asserted that there was insufficient information contained in the NOI as advertised on MDE’s e-Permits page.

The letter cited; MDE’s own searchable Integrated report of surface waters that indicates that the Bush River watershed is already significantly impaired by various pollutants associated with urban, commercial and residential stormwater runoff and associated with high percentages of impervious surfaces within the watershed…we request MDE to consider the implications of allowing discharges at this location that will impact the Tier II waters of Otter Point Creek 1. Maryland’s Antidegradation policy requires that discharge permits that will allow new or increased annual discharges and have the potential to impact water quality of a Tier II watershed must evaluate alternatives to eliminate/reduce discharges/impacts and MDE must determine whether these discharges are justified if they cannot be eliminated. Without adequate time for review and documentation included with the advertised NOI, we have no way of knowing how protective of the Tier II waters the controls on this construction activity will be.

It goes on to bring up; past noncompliance of the applicant and their associated contractors and subcontractors that were cited with a stop work order by the Harford County Department of Public Works with concurrence with MDE for performing unpermitted and unauthorized work in the Abingdon Woods Project Area.

Finally, the letter highlights that; there is a demonstrated high level of public interest in the Abingdon Woods project that weighs heavily towards making readily available all documents, plans, and permits related to the project…Given the high level of interest and the fact that we are currently facing the COVID-19 pandemic, MDE should strongly consider extending the public comment deadline for this project to allow the public to obtain the proposed plans and supporting documents and provide MDE with public comments. 

Still interested in this issue? The entire letter (as submitted) to MDE appears here:

April 30, 2020

Maryland Department of Environment
Water and Science Administration
Wastewater Permits Program,
Industrial and General Permits Division,
1800 Washington Boulevard, Suite 455, Baltimore, MD 21230

RE: Notice of Intent Reference # MDRCM050E

To Whom It May Concern,

On behalf of The Gunpowder Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper) and pursuant to Part I.C. of the General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity (“general permit”) and 40 CFR 122.28 (b)3i, I am submitting this petition to respectfully request the denial of coverage under the general permit for the Notice of Intent (“NOI”) application # MDRCM050E submitted for the Abingdon Business Park at the East Side of Van Bibber Road south of Interstate 95, Abingdon MD, Harford County, 21009. Riverkeeper submits this letter with support from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the members of the Stop Abingdon Business Park Coalition (Coalition) and the Friends of Harford (FOH).

For the reasons detailed below we request the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to require an individual permit for the activities associated with this NOI and all future NOIs submitted for the Abingdon Business Park/Abingdon Woods Project, regardless of whether the applicants or Department consider this to be a single common plan of development. At a minimum, MDE should extend the public comment deadline for this NOI to provide a legitimate opportunity for public comment on a project that has significant local opposition due to substantial detrimental impacts to the environment.

Public Notice and Public Access:

The NOI, as advertised on the MDE e-Permits webpage, provides insufficient information, such as engineering drawings and plans, to allow us to adequately assess how protective the permit will be for the Bush River watershed. As such, we have had no ability to fully review and provide MDE comments on that plan and the project as a whole. The NOI contains no information about what controls measures and best management practices (BMPs) will be used to protect nearby surface waters and the Tier II catchment of Otter Point Creek I. Additionally, there is no available information or plan for how the impacts to regulated resources like wetlands and their buffers will be avoided or minimized. The only information provided in the NOI is that the applicant claims to have a waiver from stormwater management requirements and a brief letter from the Harford County Soil Conservation District approving the Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) plans. Yet, these ESC plans are not available for public review with the other documents.

Riverkeeper did not have access to copies of the ESC plans until 4/24/2020, it took about a week of correspondence with MDE, the Harford County Soil Conservation District, the Harford County Department of Public Works, and the applicant’s own contractors, to finally acquire the plans with less than a week left to review and comment before 4/30/2020. This is simply not enough time nor is a 14-day comment period with inaccessible documents a legitimate public comment opportunity. With less than a week to review and write this letter Riverkeeper has only conducted a cursory/preliminary review of the ESC plans.

Bush River Watershed Significantly Impaired:

The entire Bush River watershed stream system is impaired by various pollutants associated with urban, commercial, and residential stormwater runoff and associated with high percentages of impervious surfaces within the watershed. These impairments include TSS, Chlorides, Sulfates, Habitat Alterations/Channelization, and lack of riparian buffers. Furthermore, MDE’s Watershed Report for Biological Impairment of the Bush River makes it clear that the entire Bush River and all its tributaries are heavily impacted by polluted runoff stemming from urban development and high percentages of impervious surfaces. This high level of degradation within the watershed warrants a high level of protection from MDE permits and associated plans and BMPs. Should construction site BMPs fail to prevent the discharge of pollutants, the disturbed soils could add to these impairments and further degrade the already heavily impaired receiving waters.

Additionally, pollutant discharges would negatively impact Otter Point Creek I, noted above, a Tier II stream with no assimilative capacity. Regarding this point, we seek clarification from MDE regarding indications on both the ESC Plan Sheet and Details drawing (S/C Approved Plan #52519) and the Title Sheet and ESC Notes document (S/C Approved Plan #52519) that there is a “NPDES Point ID” associated with this NOI. We also seek clarification regarding the location of this point ID, as it appears to be within the Tier II catchment of Otter Point Creek I at the intersections of Van Bibber and Edgewood roads. We request clarification from MDE as to whether this is a stormwater overflow/discharge point and if so, we request MDE to consider the implications of allowing discharges at this location that will impact the Tier II waters of Otter Point Creek 1. Maryland’s Antidegradation policy requires that discharge permits that will allow new or increased annual discharges and have the potential to impact water quality of a Tier II watershed must evaluate alternatives to eliminate/reduce discharges/impacts and MDE must determine whether these discharges are justified if they cannot be eliminated. Without adequate time for review and documentation included with the advertised NOI, we have no way of knowing how protective of the Tier II waters the controls on this construction activity will be.

Prior Noncompliance:

It should also be noted that this applicant and their associated contractors and subcontractors were cited with a stop work order (attached) by Harford County Department of Public Works for performing unpermitted and unauthorized work in the Abingdon Woods project area. This illegal work was conducted within nontidal wetlands and their buffers and within stream buffer zones, and all without erosion and sediment controls measures in place. This activity resulted in actual discharges to state waters and the potential for sediment discharges from activity conducted without the required BMPs and controls. In light of the applicant’s prior disregard for stormwater controls, MDE should review all proposals for this site with enhanced scrutiny through an individual permit process, and the public must be given legitimate opportunities to provide comment and review of the project, such as the opportunities provided by law for individual permit applications.

Permitting and Construction During COVID-19 Pandemic:

This project also highlights public notice and comment concerns for this specific project and for MDE’s construction stormwater NOI permitting in general during the COVID-19 Pandemic. There is a demonstrated high level of public interest in the Abingdon Woods project that weighs heavily towards making readily available all documents, plans, and permits related to the project. It is our understanding that a project of this nature will likely be required to file multiple construction NOIs for different stages of the project. As such, MDE should take this opportunity to provide better access to information and more public participation opportunities during all stages and NOIs for this project. Given the high level of interest and the fact that we are currently facing the COVID-19 pandemic, MDE should strongly consider extending the public comment deadline for this project to allow the public to obtain the proposed plans and supporting documents and provide MDE with public comments.

It is unlikely that this part of the project nor the entire project is a priority at this time. Allowing this and other non-priority projects to continue on a normal timeline during the pandemic without adaptations to the process that allow for robust public engagement and participation severely hinders our public participation rights in state and county permitting decisions. Public participation through notice and comment is a fundamental aspect of administrative governance, and MDE must work diligently to maintain a high level of public engagement at this time and ensure that hinderances and curtailments in public participation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are actively addressed.

MDE should consider extending comment deadlines and notice and comment periods for all NOIs received while the State is on lock down. This would give the public a legitimate opportunity to comment and participate. Additionally, MDE should consider delaying decisions on NOIs for projects deemed non-essential until the lock down order is lifted. This would limit the negative impacts on public participation rights, help to flatten the curve, and protect first responders and front-line workers in this pandemic.

For the reasons stated above, we request MDE deny coverage for the above-referenced project until more information is available to the public and there is a legitimate opportunity to review and comment on that information. Additionally, we request MDE to consider requiring an individual permit instead of coverage under the General Permit for this project and all future NOIs associated with the proposed work within Abingdon Woods. As demonstrated above, any increase in the impervious surface percentage in the Bush River watershed is likely to further degrade the already substantially degraded watershed. This warrants MDE to require enhanced stormwater management controls contained in an individual permit.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at 410-216-9441 Ext 205.

Sincerely,


Patrick DeArmey
Staff Attorney
Chesapeake Legal Alliance
501 Sixth Street
Annapolis, MD 21403
(410) 216-9441 Ext. 205
patrick@chesapeakelegal.org
Representing Gunpowder Riverkeeper

Supporting Organizations and Individuals:
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The Stop Abingdon Business Park Coalition
Friends of Harford
Beth Shepard, Autumn Run
Douglas and Jean Bonn, Red Maple/Van Bibber neighborhood
Philadelphia Station Homeowners’ Association
Abingdon Reserve Homeowners’ Association
Harford County Climate Action
Autumn Run Homeowners’ Association
Lonnie Vick, Cokesbury Manor Phase Two
Together We Will – Upper Chesapeake
Joppa Development and Heritage Corporation

Gunpowder Riverkeeper Sends EPA a Notice Of Intent to sue under the Clean Water Act to Protect the Tidal Gunpowder and Bird Rivers from PCB Pollution


For Immediate Release: February 27, 2020


Contact: Theaux M. Le Gardeur (410) 967-3526
Gunpowder Riverkeeper, Gunpowderriverkeeper@gmail.com
Ben Barczewski, Staff Attorney
Institute for Public Representation
bb1037@georgetown.edu


Joppa, Maryland. – Today, Gunpowder Riverkeeper served the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) with a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue under the Clean Water Act to ensure that the Tidal Gunpowder River and Bird River get the protection they deserve from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

The Gunpowder and Bird Rivers are used by boaters and swimmers, especially along the Hammerman area of Gunpowder State park. It is also is a great area for fishing and crabbing along the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, State and federal regulators have recently failed in their duty to provide the required protections under the Clean Water Act
for these waterways and the communities that use them. Although the waterways have been recognized for years as impaired by carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), EPA has allowed MDE to delay the cleanup in these areas.

The Clean Water Act requires MDE to identify all of the rivers, streams, lakes and coastlines that fail to meet state water quality standards and submit a list of those waterways to the EPA. Placement on that list, known as the Section 303(d) List, is important because it prioritizes reducing pollution in those waters. The list’s ultimate goal is to restore those waters so they can fully support their designated uses for fish and wildlife, recreation, and drinking water.


MDE placed the Gunpowder River on its Section 303(d) List in 2006, and the Bird River on the 303(d) list in 2008. Both were placed on the list for high levels of PCBs. Consequently, MDE must reduce pollution in both rivers by establishing a “pollution budget,” known as a total maximum daily load (TMDL). The Clean Water Act requires MDE’s PCB pollution budget to limit the flow of PCBs into the Gunpowder and Bird Rivers from all sources.

In 2016, MDE finalized the current, combined TMDL for PCBs in the Gunpowder and Bird Rivers. That TMDL relies on natural attenuation—the process of allowing the chemicals to break down naturally—to gradually reduce PCB concentrations. As a result,MDE estimates that it will take nearly 49 years for PCB concentrations in the Gunpowder River to meet water quality standards, and 93 years for the Bird River.

MDE’s TMDL violates the Clean Water Act by failing to set pollution limits for the major source of PCBs in both rivers: highly contaminated riverbed sediments.

“The Gunpowder and Bird Rivers are important tidal waterways which deserve to be fully protected for fishing, swimming, drinking water, recreation, and wildlife habitat,” said Theaux Le Gardeur, the Gunpowder Riverkeeper. “It is unfair for the state of Maryland to subject generations of Marylanders to the presence of carcinogenic compounds when a clearer path that would have resulted in a quicker cleanup to meet minimum water quality standards was and still is attainable.”


Gunpowder Riverkeeper’s notice letter asks EPA to correct its mistake in approving the 2016 PCB TMDL within 60 days, and to establish a revised TMDL that includes pollution limits for sediment. If EPA fails to correct within the 60-day period, Gunpowder Riverkeeper intends to file suit in U.S. District Court.

“EPA’s approval of the Gunpowder and Bird Rivers PCB TMDL violated the Agency’s . . . duty to disapprove a TMDL that does not meet the basic requirements of the [CleanWater Act],” said Gunpowder Riverkeeper in the notice letter.

PCBs bind with sediment and particularly impact groundfish that subsistence anglers rely on to feed their families. “The timelines of 49 years for the Gunpowder River and 93 years for the Bird River is too long to wait for PCB legacy pollution to move through the Chesapeake Bay to meet water quality standards,” said Theaux M. Le Gardeur, Gunpowder Riverkeeper.

Gunpowder Riverkeeper is represented by the Institute for Public Representation (IPR), a public interest law firm and clinical education program established at Georgetown University Law Center in 1971. Attorneys at IPR function as counsel for groups and individuals who are unable to obtain effective legal representation on matters including those involving the environment.

The Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, EIN # 27-1517453 is
categorized by the IRS under natural resource conservation and protection and was founded in 2010 by a grassroots group of fishing guides, hikers and boaters who enjoyed the natural beauty of the Gunpowder River. Our focus is on regulatory reform and compliance. We hold polluters accountable by prompting enforcement of water laws. This work strengthens public notice and public engagement in permits impacting waterways and addresses threats that include; invasive species (Didymo algae was discovered in 2008) loss of agricultural and forested land caused by residential development pressure, overuse of State Parklands, and unchecked industrial pollution along the river corridor.

Terry Newendorp Environmental Scholarship for the Gunpowder River still accepting applications till March 23, 2020.

The Terry Newendorp Environmental Scholarship for the Gunpowder River

2020 Criteria and Application Guidelines

What the award is: The Terry Newendorp Environmental Scholarship is a gift that was established by Terry Newendorp, an avid fisherman and conservationist who with generosity and foresight knew that “protection of the Gunpowder River had to come from future generations.”

Founded in 2018, the Award’s purpose is to assist college-bound high school seniors who excel in their studies and who plan to use their talents and expertise in the service of environmental protection. Each year, one winner will be chosen from among the current year’s graduating class. The award will provide $1,000 towards college costs for students with strong connections to the Gunpowder River Watershed. 

Eligibility: Students must reside within the Gunpowder River Watershed and have a clear connection to the Gunpowder River. Qualifying connection examples include: A connection to drinking water or recreational, aesthetic, and/or environmental attributes of the Gunpowder River Watershed. 

In addition to the above restriction, all applicants must: 

  1. Plan to major or minor in one of the natural sciences or other appropriate subject, and; 
  2. Demonstrate a strong personal commitment to protecting the Gunpowder Watershed.

The application procedure: The application must be submitted by the student.

A complete application will include all of the following:

  1. The student’s name and complete contact information including phone and e-mail.
  2. The name of the school and complete faculty contact information.
  3. A short essay (450 words total) written by the student answering all three of the following questions: 1) Why the Gunpowder Watershed matters to you; 2. How conservation fits into your future career goals; and 3. What you plan to study in college and why.
  4. A copy of the student’s current high school transcripts.
  5. A letter of recommendation from a student’s guidance counselor or science teacher.
  6. A description of the student’s extracurricular activities regarding environmental / conservation issues (e.g. Environmental Club membership, Scouting merit badges & awards, participation in local conservation efforts, membership in environmental organizations, applicable hobbies, etc.)

Disbursement: In order for the scholarship to be disbursed,the student must have been accepted by an accredited college or university for the Fall 2020 Semester and provide a copy of the letter of acceptance from the college or university where the nominee will be attending to Gunpowder Riverkeeper.

All applications may be accepted between October 15, 2019 and must be postmarked no later than March 23, 2020 and mailed to:

Terry Newendorp Environmental Scholarship 

C/O Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER ®

P.O. Box 156

Monkton, MD 21111

For questions regarding the scholarship application please contact Theaux Le Gardeur, Gunpowder Riverkeeper at gunpowderriverkeeper@gmail.com

The decision-making process: A panel comprised of Gunpowder Riverkeeper Director, Board and committee Members will review all applications. The winners of this year’s Terry Newendorp Environmental Scholarship will be chosen no later than March 23, 2020; and the award presented no later than May 30, 2020. If possible, the award will be presented publicly at the school’s annual awards event.

Award Recipient’s Opportunity: For a period of two years after the award, a student may take part in an unpaid internship with the Gunpowder Riverkeeper. Depending on the project area, concentration and term, an internship may result in college credit to be determined by the learning institution.

RIverkeeper Acknowledgement letter: A letter of acknowledgement from an award winner is required to satisfy scholarship requirements and should be postmarked 60 days from receipt of the award letter.

Use of essay, photo and acknowledgement letter release: Recipient agrees that Gunpowder Riverkeeper may use all or parts of the application essay, any photos associated with the gift and the acknowledgement letter for any future outreach and marketing purpose.

2019 Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER Year End Review and Appeal

whalerock

Thank you for supporting our efforts to protect the Gunpowder River! We could not have been successful without your generous support. Our work links and protects the forests, the fish and the faucet. Riverkeeper respects the varied economic, recreational and biological aspects of the River. Clean water in the Gunpowder watershed is everyone’s right and as a shared resource must be protected for all.

Unfortunately, we are faced with many environmental threats that harm people’s ability to enjoy the River. The organization works collaboratively and proactively to find solutions to pollution problems and represent member’s interests in protecting the Gunpowder River and its watershed.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to protect the Gunpowder River! We could not be successful without your generous support.

canoes

We are asking for your support again in 2020 to address these environmental threats:

In the upper Gunpowder, we are investigating Baltimore City Department of Public Works’ (DPW) management of the Prettyboy Reservoir. We feel that the management of the reservoir is creating a spillover risk during summer months and hurricane season. Spillover may result in water temperatures in downstream sections of the Gunpowder to be above the state water quality standard of 68 degrees. This cold-water standard must be maintained to protect the high-quality trout habitat immediately downstream of the reservoir. Spillover will also degrade water quality by causing erosion, high turbidity levels and degradation of the stream corridor. We are seeking documents and information from various levels of government involved in this issue. 

Your donation and support will allow us to cover expenses and expert review associated with this project.

In the lower Gunpowder, we are tracking a Decision by the Maryland Boat Act Advisory Committee (BAAC) that recommended a change to the speed limit at Days Cove and Middle River from 6 Knots to 35 Knots. This recommendation was made despite public testimony and comment letters relating public safety and environmental concerns. 

Your support will allow us to focus more time and resources into investigating this important safety and environmental issue.   

In the Bush River, we asked for a public hearing and gave testimony opposing a proposed Wetlands and Waterways permit that would allow the conversion of a 330-acre forested parcel in Abingdon to a business park with over 2.5 million square feet of warehouse space and associated buildings. The site currently contains many sensitive environmental features, including significant forested wetland, many specimen trees and part of a stream catchment draining to Otter Point Creek, a High-Quality Tier II waterway located upstream of the vibrant Bush River Tidal Largemouth Bass Fishery. This forested area also provides vital stormwater and flood controls to adjacent and downstream residential areas. It must be protected. 

Your support will help us maintain our efforts in reviewing the plans and application for this project, enhancing public participation, and writing public comments to the State in opposition

dundee

A few highlights of our work in 2019 include:

Our advocacy led to a resolution and unanimous vote by the Baltimore County Council to oppose a MDE discharge permit in Harford County that had the potential to impact water quality downstream in Baltimore County.

We saw the withdrawal of a MDE discharge permit that would have allowed an average of 5,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater to enter Indian Grave Run, an ephemeral stream in Harford County that empties into the Little Gunpowder Falls at the Jericho covered bridge in Kingsville.

We appealed a decision by the Maryland Public Service Commission to approve the conversion of the C.P. Crane Plant from Coal to Natural Gas. The Commission had not considered that the plant could become a stranded asset in the face of climate change and sea level rise because the siting of Plant was on a peninsula in the tidal gunpowder at one foot above sea level. 

herons

We took part in a Maryland Outdoors segment to promote hiking, boating, fishing and responsible recreational use along the river corridor and the tidal Gunpowder and Bird Rivers. 

We distributed five Terry Newendorp Environmental Scholarship awards at $1000 each towards college costs for students with strong connections to the Gunpowder River Watershed from York, Adams, Carroll and Harford Counties. Founded in 2018, by Terry Newendorp, an avid fisherman and conservationist, the Award’s purpose is to assist college-bound high school seniors who excel in their studies and who plan to use their talents and expertise in the service of environmental protection. The 2020 application is open until March 1, 2020 and information is on our website.

The Gunpowder River supports varied recreational interests, habitat for native and wild trout, drinking water for 1.5 million Baltimore-Metro Area residents and important tidal habitat for Rockfish, Perch and crabs. Riverkeeper protects drinking water, property interests, sensitive species, recreational and aesthetic values.

We need your financial support to maintain and enhance our River protection efforts. Please consider a year-end donation of support to amplify our outreach and advocacy.

You may donate at: https://gunpowderriverkeeper.org/support/ or by sending a check to:

Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER®, P.O. BOX 156 Monkton, MD 21111

Thank you for your support,

Theaux M. Le Gardeur

GRK is a 501(c)(3) non-profit categorized by the IRS under Natural Resource Conservation and Protection. Your charitable contribution is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. A copy of the current financial statement of GRK is available by writing P.O. BOX 156 Monkton, MD 21111 or calling 410-967-3526. Documents submitted under the Maryland Solicitations Act are also available, for the cost of postage and copies, from: The MD Sec. of State, State House, Annapolis MD 21401 (410) 974-5534