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Center for Watershed Protection Evaluates Sweeping as a BMP for Chesapeake Bay Area

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

The Urban Storm Water Work Group of the Chesapeake Bay Program has recognized the importance of defining more accurate pollutant removal rates for the practices of street cleaning and storm drain cleanouts as a top priority for its BMP tracking system.

Cities contribute a significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorus to Chesapeake Bay. Urban storm water runoff is responsible for about 16% of phosphorus, 11% of nitrogen, and 9% of sediment loads to the Bay. Chemical contaminants (such as metals) from urban runoff can rival or exceed the amount reaching the Bay from industries, federal facilities and wastewater treatment plants.

Urban storm water runoff is responsible for impairments in over 1,570 miles of assessed streams in the Bay watershed and has caused flooding, streambank erosion and habitat and living resource degradation in many areas throughout the watershed. Given projections regarding urban and suburban growth and the increase in impervious surfaces in the watershed, managing urban storm water runoff is an important priority for the Bay Program to undertake to improve water quality and restore vital habitats and living resources in the Bay.

Until recently, Chesapeake area storm water managers have focused on controlling runoff quantity to prevent flooding, with minimal attention paid to controlling the quality of that runoff. The vast majority of land developed prior to the early 1980's in the Chesapeake Bay watershed lacks storm water quality controls. Today, most Chesapeake Bay watershed jurisdictions are placing more emphasis on managing both storm water quantity and quality, using new and innovative technologies to reduce runoff volume and pollutant loads.

The Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) is leading a two-year research project, which will end in late 2007, designed to develop improved estimates of the potential nutrient and sediment reductions achievable through municipal street sweeping and storm drain cleanouts, based on a literature review, a basin-wide municipal survey of existing programs and an intensive field monitoring program within paired catchments located in Watershed 263 in Baltimore, MD.

The CWP includes the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works (DPW), Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management (DEPRM), the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC).

Other partners on the project team include the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education within UMBC and the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Experiment Station (FS-NES), which is currently monitoring the paired catchments as part of the ongoing Baltimore Ecosystem Study, which is one of two urban long-term ecological research stations in the country. will keep this web information updated as study results come in. Currently, we offer the following links to the project information:

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