Polluted Runoff

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 link_to_videos.pngeverything 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! 

Click "Water Blues-Green Solutions" above for real-life examples.

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.

Scroll to the bottom for an idea list to get your congregation going!

"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)

In 2012, 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. 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. 

(photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program)

Listen to a Pod Cast of "Midday with Dan Rodricks" discussing the issue of polluted runoff and utility fees 

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, and 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!

  • Invite your legislator to participate in the dialogue! You're welcome to use this letter in your invitation. This link will help you find your legislator and how to contact them.
  • 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 Rose, our Executive Director, at 410-609-6852.
  • Invite IPC to come speak to your congregation about caring for creation and the problem of polluted runoff.
  • Circulate this Flyer to your congregation to disseminate faith-based messaging about this issue.
  • 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. 
  • 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. (embedded link: mailto: [email protected])
  • 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 at the bottom of this page and get this conversation going in the right direction!
  • (photo at right is of a Rain Garden at St. Martin's Lutheran Church, Annapolis)


County Specific Programs to Help you Get Started

Breakdown of fees for nonprofit landowners, by county

Overview of County Programs across the state

Montgomery County's Rainscapes Program - financing available to help underwrite your project

Prince George's County Rain Check Rebates Program or Alternative Compliance Program - enter into an agreement with PGDER and they might fund your project

Howard County's Clean Water Program - needs-based grants available to non-profits for projects, plus credits on top of that

Resources for Baltimore County/City: 

Resources for Anne Arundel County

  • Rebates and credits for residential and commercial property owners
  • Power Point Presentation prepared by Anne Arundel councilman Chris Trumbauer
  • A potential project for 2014: RiverWise Congregations! Pending grant approval, IPC, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and the Watershed Stewards Academy will be teaming up to provide congregations with site assessments, professionally designed and installed stormwater management improvement projects, training for 1-2 of your congregants to become watershed stewards, and spiritual and educational support throughout the process.  Check out the flyer here. Email Joanna Freeman at [email protected] for more information or if you have any questions.  

Resources for DC:

  • DC's Department Of Energy & Environment’s RiverSmart programs help to reduce stormwater runoff that harms the District’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. RiverSmart programs provide financial incentives to help District property owners install green infrastructure such as rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement, shade trees, and more. These practices allow rainwater to stay on site and soak into the ground, where natural processes help remove pollutants.  Click on Riversmart Communities for more information on how congregations can apply to the program to save money while restoring creation. 
  • For tree planting information in DC go to Casey Trees.


Congregations that have implemented stormwater management projects:

Heritage Baptist Church, Annapolis, MD

Maryland Presbyterian Church, Towson Maryland

Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, Washington DC

St. Luke's Episopal Church, Annapolis, MD

St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Annapolis, MD

St. Mary's Church and Schools, Annapolis, MD

Woodbrook Baptist Church, Baltimore, MD


Want to add your congregation to this list? Email [email protected]


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