Waterkeepers Chesapeake: Removal of waterways from federal pollution rules may violate Clean Water Act

Six area waterkeeping organizations allege the EPA violated the Clean Water Act when officials excused 53 river segments — some in Anne Arundel County — from “total maximum daily load” requirements in 2012, according to the lawsuit filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

“Pollution doesn’t just originate in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Elizabeth Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, in a statement. “We have to look at all the smaller creeks and streams that are suffering impaired water quality throughout the watershed.”

The lawsuit alleges that Maryland Department of the Environment, the state agency in charge of implementing the Clean Water Act, failed to provide timely notice of its decision to remove 53 waterways from the impaired waters list, robbing the public of an opportunity to comment. Because of this, the complaint states, the EPA’s approval of the state’s list was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

The plaintiffs include nonprofit organizations from across the state: Blue Water Baltimore; the Chester River Association; the Gunpowder Riverkeeper in Monkton; the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy in Easton; the Potomac Riverkeeper Network in Washington, D.C.; and Waterkeepers Chesapeake in Takoma Park.


(Published in Capital Gazette, March 9, 2016)