By Barry Rascovar / Community Times | July 10, 2013
WHEN YOUR PROPERTY TAX bill arrived by mail last week, you may not have noticed a slight addition: an extra $21, $32 or $39 — depending on your type of residence — for “Stormwater Remediation.”
This is overdue recognition that stormwater pouring from roofs and parking pads pollutes the Chesapeake Bay, promotes flooding and soil erosion and leads to drinking water contamination.
Embarking on fixes takes money.
It’s similar to another charge, $60, on the same bill for the Bay Restoration Fund. This is better known as the “flush tax” promoted by Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich.
That money is spent on costly sewage treatment plant upgrades to remove nitrogen and other pollutants before the cleansed water is dumped into streams, rivers and the Chesapeake.
They are necessary expenses if we care about our environment.
None of us like to pay taxes. That’s been true since the American Revolution — remember the original Tea Party in Boston and other colonial cities?
But delivering government services and preserving our valuable natural resources can’t be done for free.
In Baltimore County, the fee to deal with stormwater runoff pays for such services as street sweeping, storm drain cleaning, maintenance and improvements, shoreline stabilization, tree planting and reforestation, among other things.
The county’s charge is $21 for a townhouse, $32 for a condo and $39 for a single-family home. This is far cheaper than Baltimore City, between $40 and $120 per residence, and generally less than Howard County, $15 to $90.
Anne Arundel County is phasing in its stormwater fee, $34 to $85, over three years and Harford County has a 10-year phase-in of its $125 fee while a task force studies other options.
The fee is mandated by state law affecting 10 jurisdictions that contribute the most to stormwater pollution of the bay.
A few counties refused to take the state mandate — required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency — seriously. They could face hefty fines or a whopping cleanup tab down the road.
Carroll County’s staunchly conservative commissioners aren’t imposing any fee and will pay for cleanup projects out of the county’s annual budget. Frederick County’s even more conservative commissioners imposed a $1 per residence fee and dared the EPA and Maryland to object.
Meanwhile, a Baltimore County Republican known for his grandstanding is leading a drive to repeal the so-called “rain tax.” Del. Pat McDonough has as much chance of succeeding as stopping the rain from falling on roofs and other impervious surfaces.
When you think about it, this fee and Ehrlich’s “flush tax” are cost-effective ways to show our support for clean water. For less than $100 a year every resident in Baltimore County contributes to a greener environment that makes it safer to swim in our rivers and bay, drink water from our taps and preserve this state’s greatest treasure, the Chesapeake.