MDE’s Enforcement of Water Quality Rules Found Lacking

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Maryland’s Department of the Environment (MDE) has responsibility for enforcing rules designed to minimize water pollution. That responsibility rests in MDE’s Water and Science Administration (WSA). A recent report by the Chesapeake Accountability Project, made up of five non-profit organizations, has issued an enforcement scorecard for two periods–2010 to 2015 and 2016 to 2021.The report also calculates an historical average for the period 2001 to 2021.

Key findings demonstrate an overall downward trend in clean water
enforcement in Maryland over the past twenty years. In the last six years, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of enforcement actions taken by WSA, the number of sites inspected, and the number of significant violations identified involving environmental or health impacts.

Effective enforcement depends on two related resources–the agency’s budget and staff able to carry out inspections. In the two decades between fiscal years 2002 and 2022, MDE lost one out of every seven staff, with its agency budget of state general funds falling by more than one-third, adjusting for inflation. MDE now represents less than one-fifth of one percent (0.018%) of Maryland’s total state general fund budget, which is half of what it was two decades ago.

For details, you can find the report here: