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Eroding Stormwater Regulations

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By Sabri Ben-Achour

Developers and environmental groups in Maryland have been at loggerheads over new stormwater runoff regulations scheduled to go into effect May fourth, and a compromise has left neither side particularly satisfied.

Stormwater runoff from paved surfaces carrying trash and pollutants into rivers and the Chesapeake Bay is a recurring issue in the region. Maryland recently tried to deal with the problem by requiring developers to build in ways to slow down and filter rainwater in any new construction. Some developers bristled.

"Putting this burden on the back of new development--all it's going to do is increase the cost of housing way up beyond what anyone can afford and it won't get the job done," says Tom Farasy, president of the Maryland State Builders' Association.

During a down economy, he says, developers wouldn't be able to meet the rules. The state of Maryland relented, giving developers three more years to comply with the regulations and allowing more flexibility in how to meet the new standards. The grandfathering would apply only to developers who have received preliminary approval for their projects by May 4th, 2010. Developers whose projects haven't been approved by then will have to comply with the new regulations.

"We are disappointed that a significant number of projects will get extra time because that means that's pollution running off into creeks and rivers and into the bay that otherwise would've been slowed down and filtered," says Tom Zolper, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Ultimately, though, the standards remain intact. Developers have until 2013 to meet them.

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