One would let county employees enter properties to investigate violations.
Frederick, Md (KM) Proposed changes to Frederick County’s stormwater management ordinance were discussed on Tuesday by the County Council.
Shannon Moore, the manager of the County’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, says the county already an active enforcement program against the discharge of illegal substances into area waterways. “But the State got back to us and they said although you have a program in place, good statements of procedures, you work with your different county divisions to put them together, you have a coordinate response, you have contracts to respond to spills if you need to, you don’t have adequate enforcement capabilities and proper entry in your legislation. So that’s what we’re here to correct,”: she said.
Moore says the county has been responding to spills into waterways, including barrels of antifreeze in a county right of way. “We had a quarry that was discharging slurry from operations because they were unaware of runaway operations. We’ve responded to large scale paint element spills in the past, and stomped up the storm sewer system to prevent further discharges,” she says.
In fact, the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources responded to 14 illegal discharges last year.
One of the amendments which generated some discussion Tuesday would allow staff from the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources to enter a property to investigate illegal discharges in local waterways. Assistant County Attorney Kathy Mitchell says county employees have had this authority for many years. “We do have a right of entry, and it says all reasonable hours upon any private premise and into any building in a service area while in pursuit of official duties, after reasonable notice and present proper credentials,” she said.
But Mitchell said the county prefers to work with the property owner to mitigate any illicit discharge complaint. “In practice, we are not going to just go into someone’s private home or even a commercial establishment unless we get permission; or if there’s something that’s serious, if it’s an emergency, we might get some help from law enforcement, or we might have to go to court,” she says
Other amendments include defining the permitted prohibited discharges, the control of illicit discharges by a property owner or responsible property, and penalties and fines for violators.
The amendments, called Illicit Discharges and Connections to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, were expected to be introduced next week. But Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer, who is sponsoring the measures on behalf of the County Executive, said more work is needed, and these amendments will be introduced at a later time.
By Kevin McManus