Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was awarded a Potomac Champion Award at the 5th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit held September 22 in Washington D.C. DEP Director Bob Hoyt accepted the award, which acknowledged the Department’s leadership in championing the use of regulatory tools, innovative outreach, and cooperative management to reduce trash and litter in the Potomac River.
“I’m very proud of DEP’s innovation and willingness to champion more aggressive ways of improving water quality,” said Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. “Trash not only ruins the beauty of our neighborhoods and rivers, it blocks our storm drains causing our streets and basements to flood, carries bacteria and other pollutants into our drinking water supplies, destroys fish habitat, and prevents us from swimming and fishing in our streams. The County spends over $3 million annually to pick up the litter that is carelessly discarded. Let’s encourage everyone to stop littering to help save the environment and County tax dollars. It’s that simple.”
Jurisdictions throughout the Potomac River watershed—which covers portions of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.— were represented at the Trash Summit, an annual event held to assess the progress the region has made in achieving the goal of a trash-free Potomac watershed by 2013. Montgomery County is one of the original signers of the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty.
In awarding the Potomac Champion Award, Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which spearheads the Trash Free Potomac Initiative, recognized that the leadership shown by DEP would inspire other neighboring jurisdictions to also use more aggressive strategies to reduce trash and litter in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. She praised DEP’s “outstanding dedication to finding innovative solutions to eradicate trash.”
“DEP has embraced our leadership role in being the first in Maryland to try to achieve ambitious goals for reducing waste and improving water quality,” said Hoyt. “We are hard at work on a number of initiatives, including reducing trash in the Anacostia watershed; coordinating with the Department of Transportation to conduct additional street-sweeping in neighborhoods bordering the river; working with neighboring jurisdictions to launch a regional outreach campaign to reduce littering; and partnering with County agencies to step up efforts to both prevent and pick up litter before it reaches our waterways. The end result of these efforts will hopefully be a cleaner Potomac watershed and better environmental quality for all.”
Under Montgomery County’s State-issued stormwater permit, the County is required to (1) meet a numeric pollution limit (TMDL) for trash and litter in the Anacostia River, a tributary to the Potomac, and (2) achieve the goals of the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty. TMDLs provide the scientific basis for establishing water quality-based controls and reducing pollution. DEP has also provided support for a public education campaign and marketing effort to prevent litter, which is currently under development by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and slated for regional distribution later this year.
The Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari Wilson said, “Getting the requirements in place to meet the pollution limits required support from Montgomery County to come to fruition, and we appreciate the County’s hard work.”
Among the over 300 Trash Summit attendees were elected officials and decision-makers from around the region, non-profit and community organizations, the business community, solid waste professionals, students, clean up volunteers and others with a stake in a clean river. Panel discussions and roundtable sessions were held on implementing regional strategies aimed at reducing trash, increasing recycling and increasing education and awareness of trash issues throughout the Potomac Watershed. Early drafts of the regional publicity campaign to reduce litter and stormwater pollution were also unveiled and discussed at the Summit.
# # #