DEP News

News and Happenings from the County's Department of Environmental Protection

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sligo Creek: Better stormwater management results in higher quality aquatic resources

Montgomery County’s Sligo Creek has been confirmed by EPA as a success story for improvements in aquatic life resulting from extensive stormwater pollution control and management in the watershed. Success Stories are used by EPA to request and justify continued funding for grant monies (known as Section 319 grants) ear marked for controlling nonpoint source pollution which carries pollutants from urban surfaces and agricultural lands into waterbodies in rainfall runoff.

Since 1989, the County has improved the stream banks down the length of the Sligo Creek, created wet ponds to capture stormwater runoff and treat it before it goes into the creek, restored pools for breeding habitat for fish and amphibians, retrofitted existing stormwater ponds by adding additional storage and retention capacity to capture rainfall runoff from more urban surfaces, and reshaped the stream channel itself by adding more meanders and curves which slows down flow and creates habitat niches for biological life. More recent investments by the County have included installations of low impact development bio-retention systems. These installations help to filter out the pollutants in stormwater runoff and help to absorb the rainfall in place through vegetation roots instead of allowing runoff to flow into gutters and into the stream conveying pollutants.

The County’s biological monitoring program has been sampling fish and other aquatic organisms in the stream for decades. Since 2000 when the fish complex found in the stream were of only four pollution-tolerant fish, steady incremental changes in the creek’s water quality and habitat opportunities have led to noticeable improvement. Today fourteen naturally sustaining fish species can be found in the creek, including some that require specialized habitat. The bioassessment done of the aquatic life in the creek shows that the overall Index of Biotic integrity scoring has improved from a “poor” rating to a “fair”rating.

More details on the Sligo Creek Success Story are available on EPA’s Nonpoint Source Program Success Story Web site .
CATEGORIES: Biological Monitoring , Watershed
POSTED: 12:30:00 PM |

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Arcola Avenue Green Street Project: Fast, Compact Stormwater Control

The Arcola Avenue Green Street Project integrates curbside swales, rain gardens and curb extensions right into the street design, to treat rainfall runoff from the street.  The treatment system filters water through a mixture of highly permeable soils (sand, mulch, compost), then stores the water in an underlying gravel layer from which the water percolates into groundwater.

Environmentally-sensitive design (ESD) stormwater treatment systems like this one built right into the street, are much smaller in scope and complexity than standard stormwater facilities (e.g. stormwater ponds) which require much more space than available in dense urbanized or suburbanized areas. Arcola Avenue’s stormwater treatment is not only cost-effective and controls runoff pollution, but it also helps restore Sligo Creek.

The Arcola Green Street Project integrates curbside swales, rain gardens and curb extensions along the roadway.  These rain gardens, curbside swales and curb extensions are integrated between the curb and the sidewalk and occasionally the curbs were extended into the parking lanes to expand the practices and provide for additional treatment.  In larger storms, excess water is treated and discharges back into the curb and gutter system or into the storm drain system.  These systems ultimately improve receiving stream and watershed health by improving water quality, reducing storm runoff and recharging the water table. 

The Arcola Avenue Green Street Project is located along a heavily traveled arterial road in Silver Spring, Maryland.  It uses ESD practices to treat 1.85 acres of impervious uncontrolled rainfall runoff draining to Sligo Creek, a tributary of the Anacostia River.  The Arcola Avenue Green Street project was initiated in March 2011 as a pilot partnership between the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (DOT).  The partnership’s goal was to develop a process for constructing stormwater management practices along Montgomery County roads.  The Arcola Avenue Green Street Project was originally identified as a stormwater management retrofit opportunity in the Anacostia River Restoration Plan (ARP).  The ARP, completed in 2010, is a comprehensive 10-year restoration plan that identified restoration opportunities throughout the Anacostia River Watershed.  The Arcola Avenue Green Street Project is one of hundreds of restoration opportunities identified in Montgomery County and is an integral part in fulfilling the overarching goal of restoring the Sligo Creek watershed. 

Roadway bioretention facilities, rain gardens, and related “low impact development” or “environmental site design” projects are much smaller in scope and complexity than standard stormwater facilities.  The Arcola Avenue Green Street required only twelve weeks to design, and three months to construct the 10 ESD practices. The resulting 1.85 treated acres of roadway rainfall runoff could not have been otherwise treated due to lack of available open space and real estate.

POSTED: 3:36:00 PM |

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stimulus Funding Available for Energy Efficiency Initiatives in Homes

Montgomery County today launched the Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program that will provide incentives of up to $3,000 to owner occupants of single family homes and condominiums who make new energy efficiency improvements.  Eligible improvements include air sealing, insulation, heating and cooling, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heating and appliances.  The $1.1 million program is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  

“The Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program will help homeowners overcome the financial barriers to making their homes more energy efficient while creating jobs in our community,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett.  “The rebates will help raise the public’s awareness of the ways in which changes in their home can have big impacts on their energy costs and our environmental quality.  Improving household energy efficiency is an important component of the County’s efforts to meet our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.”  

The rebate program has been carefully designed to work in concert with other sources of incentives available from Pepco, BG&E, Potomac Edison (Allegheny Power) and the Maryland Energy Administration Programs, as well as federal tax credits.  Participants may also be able to take advantage of financing programs offered by the Maryland Clean Energy Center’s Home Energy Loan Program.

“The Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program is a key component of our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act programs, which are designed to make our community more efficient while stimulating valuable green jobs,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Director Bob Hoyt.  “In addition, we hope as consumers undertake comprehensive audits of their home’s energy performance, they will learn about further opportunities to make environmentally friendly choices.”

Montgomery County also offers property tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, authorized at $500,000 annually.  The number of applications for these credits continues to grow and has far exceeded the annual limit, resulting in a several year backlog for applicants.  The County is prohibited from using federal ARRA funds to supplement the County’s existing tax credit program. 

To apply for the new residential rebate, consumers must have a completed energy audit and a scope of work from a professional installer.  Residents can learn more about the program and apply online at the County’s energy funding website at   Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.  The site also will provide information about the availability of consumer workshops as they are scheduled where consumers can learn more about the rebates and the application process.  DEP expects that 300 to 500 homes will be improved under the program.

The residential rebate is part of a package of programs developed under the County’s ARRA grant. Other efforts will retrofit commercial, multi-family and public buildings, train workers in new, green skills, and provide public education and outreach.
CATEGORIES: Energy , Green House Gas Reduction
POSTED: 10:41:00 AM |

Monday, August 22, 2011

NonProfit Energy Alliance Boosts Clean Energy Use in Montgomery County

Clean energy is getting a boost in Montgomery County through the Nonprofit Energy Alliance which has helped 45 non-profit groups get lower rates for their clean energy purchases. This informal alliance—based on common goals of reducing environmental impacts and boosting a green economy—has been in operation since May 2010.  The Alliance’s green energy purchases thus far equate to removing 13 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, roughly similar to taking 1,100 passenger vehicles off the road or to powering 700 homes for one year.

The lower pricing achieved through collective purchasing has helped reduce the economic impact of making the transition to clean energy. Participating nonprofits can expect a savings of between 10 to 15 percent.

The Nonprofit Energy Alliance is a collaboration between the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Nonprofit Montgomery and the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington.  The Alliance also educates the community on the environmental and economic benefits of purchasing clean energy. Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection provides technical guidance to the Alliance. 

To learn more or register for the Alliance’s upcoming webinar—Monday, September 12 (12:00 – 12:30 p.m.)—visit:

CATEGORIES: Energy , Green Business
POSTED: 12:49:00 PM |

Friday, June 03, 2011

Carryout bag charge to make gains in the County’s Litter Control Efforts

Starting January 1, 2012 all County retailers will charge customers five cents for each paper or plastic carryout bag used to take out purchases at the point of sale, or pickup or delivery.  The nominal nickel charge has been found in neighboring jurisdiction Washington DC, to be the right price-point to change the prevailing practice of packaging any purchase.  Washington DC's Bag Law (The Anacostia River Protection Act) has been in place for one year, and has documented results such as:

•  Reductions in disposable bag use by 60–70 percent (as reported by businesses)
•  Reductions in the number of plastic bags being pulled from local streams and waterways by 65 percent (reported by environmental groups)
•  Reductions in the use of paper and plastic single-use bags from 22.5 million to 3.2 million after the law took effect (reported by the District’s Chief Financial Officer)
•  Revenue generated by the fee is going back into the community for trash reduction and clean-up efforts

Plastic bags often wind up as litter in local storm drains, streams and eventually our rivers.  Studies of trash conducted in the Anacostia watershed have shown that plastic bags are one of the top four components of the litter found in streams.

Revenues from the bag charge will be dedicated to the Water Quality Protection Charge and be used for litter control programs, watershed protection activities, and for reusable bag distribution to low-income residents.  The County spent $3 million in litter reduction and control programs in 2009.  The bag charge offers retail consumers a choice of bringing their own bag and avoiding the 5-cent fee, and in doing so, shifts the burden from all County tax payers to retail consumers who chose to take a carryout bag for their purchases.  Bill 8-11 was passed in a County Council session on May 3rd, 2011 and signed into Law on May 11, 2011.

CATEGORIES: watershed , litter
POSTED: 3:25:00 PM |
Streetside native plants help to absorb stormwater runoff
Streetside native plants help to absorb stormwater runoff