Did you know that the only source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that is still increasing is polluted runoff? Polluted runoff occurs when rain falls on hard surfaces like parking lots and is directed to lower ground, carrying with them any pollutants on those surfaces: the lawn herbicides that accidentally get spread on an adjacent sidewalk, the oils and antifreeze that drip from cars sitting in a parking lot, and the sheer volume of water from a large roof that creates a massive slug picking up everything in its path. This polluted runoff combines, heads toward storm drains and then we don’t see it anymore. Where does it go? It gets discharged into our streams and tributaries that ultimately lead to the Chesapeake Bay.
You’ve seen the algae blooms, heard about the zones that are unsafe for swimming, and read about the fish kills. It has saddened and maybe even angered you. You know in your heart, this is NOT God’s plan for the Earth and its inhabitants, but you have felt helpless and unsure of how to reverse this trend.
Well, it is time to feel empowered!
Many projects can be implemented at your home, office, or place of worship to reduce polluted runoff. Examples include rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofs, permeable pavement, downspout planters, educational outreach to spread the word, and improved landscaping practices, to name a few. These projects range in cost and feasibility, and IPC is here to help you get started. There are funding sources available and watershed and riverkeeper societies wanting to help.
Maryland House Bill 987 was passed to create funding sources which will be used for engineering solutions for polluted runoff. The law states that the 10 most densely populated jurisdictions must charge fees to landowners with hard surfaces on their properties. In other words, landowners who use our shared waterways to manage the polluted runoff emanating from their properties must contribute to a fund to pay for solutions to this problem. This is no different than the fees we pay to use the wastewater sewer system to handle what we flush or empty in our sinks, or fees to handle our trash. The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have been suffering degradation for decades. Scientists have determined that the ways we designed our cities and neighborhoods, though lovely with sidewalks, parking lots, and non-native landscaping, have wreaked havoc on our vulnerable waterways.
We simply cannot ask God’s creation to continue to absorb our polluted runoff.
"You shall not pollute the land in which you live.... You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell.” (Numbers 35:33-34)
Opponents of HB 987 have called it “a rain tax” and do not understand the importance of sharing in this responsibility of managing our polluted runoff. Opponents want to roll back this law in the upcoming legislation, or at least delay it by two years. It is hard to do the right thing, but it’s not any easier to do it in two years.
Rain is natural and is not taxed. Pollution is created by humans and costs money to fix.
IPC supports HB 987 and what it is trying to do. We all contribute to polluted runoff and it is time to share in the responsibility for this pollution. We share these waterways with our brothers and sisters, some of whom depend on these waterways for food sustenance, commodities, and a way of life more than just for recreation. We are called by God to care for the Earth and all our brothers and sisters with whom we share the Earth. He trusts us with this responsibility, and He has given us the space to do what is right.
“Prove by your earnestness that your love is genuine.” (2 Corinthians 8:8)
I want to help, but what can I do?
First, spend time in prayer to reflect on this issue and what you are being called to do. Then, review this list of ways you can get engaged!
- Check out this list of congregations who have undertaken stormwater management projects already…go take a drive by! If your congregation should be on this list, let us know!
- If there are extensive hard surfaces at your place of worship, think about installing rain gardens or other improvements. IPC can talk to you about this. Call Jodi at 410-609-6852
- Invite IPC to come speak to your congregation about caring for creation and the problem of polluted runoff.
- Agree to disseminate information to your congregants about this issue to help spread the facts. IPC can provide you with the flyers.
- Sign this Change.org Petition in support of HB 987.
- A model innovation at a residence in Prince George’s County will be open to the public on Wednesday, December 11. 2013, 2:30 p.m. The private residence is located at 5505 43rd Avenue, Hyattsville, MD 20781. RSVP to the event here.
- In Montgomery County, grants are available for property owners who install improvements to capture polluted runoff. Homeowners are eligible up to $2,000 and institutions are eligible up to $10,000. Click here for more information.
- In Baltimore County, congregations may enroll in the Blue Water Congregations program for assistance with construction projects to address polluted runoff. Email Jodi if you’re interested in getting more information.
- In Prince George’s County, there are rebates available for construction projects. Check it out here.
- Write to your Maryland legislator and your denominational leaders and tell them that you support efforts to reduce polluted runoff. Email Jodi to request a draft letter.
- Read the news and respond in writing to your paper when you disagree with what’s being stated.
- Post your comments on IPC’s website and get this conversation going in the right direction!
Thank you for all you do!