Huge workloads hinder stormwater enforcement

Published: March 3, 2019

One reason for Anne Arundel County’s poor enforcement record, especially with water pollution from construction sites, is that inspectors working for the county’s Inspections & Permits (I&P) department are grossly overworked.

Due to budget cuts over the past dozen years, Anne Arundel County’s I&P inspectors now have to handle 149 cases at a time.

In neighboring counties, this same case load is 43 or less!

Details of the incredible workload I&P inspectors have to deal with were revealed by South RIVERKEEPER Jesse Iliff Feb. 19 during the John Wright Speaker Series sponsored by the Severn River Association (SRA).

Iliff told the standing-room-only crowd that he discovered the workload discrepancy while shifting through years of county records to establish the enforcement record regarding permit violations enforced by the Inspections & Permits division.

Iliff’s discovery during his research helps explain why so many citizens feel that the county’s enforcement staff are unresponsive to complaints about suspected violations.

The gigantic workload is the result of enforcement budgets have been repeatedly slashed by successive Republican and Democratic administrations that have cut enforcement budgets for Maryland Department of Environment and AACounty’s I&P department, which handles stormwater compliance issues.

Plus, political leaders have not demanded that their administrations focus on protecting water quality or enforcing regulations.

Schuh Era Abandoned ‘Zero Tolerance’ With Violations

Iliff pointed out that when the Schuh administration realized that the county’s website was touting that it had “zero tolerance” for code and zoning violations, and that these would be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” then county executive Steve Schuh had this language removed from the website.

And, Illiff told his audience, that even when staff do respond to permitting and code violation complaints, they often find ways to not to respond to problems that create the notorious mud flood events that pollute our waterways with sediment and nutrient overloads.

Instead of responding with enforcement efforts, especially at construction sites where developers are well aware of the standards, county inspectors emphasized so-called “technical assistance” in which county inspectors would offer advice to developers on how to avoid a fine for the violations.

This amounts to “taxpayer-funded legal advice to polluters,” Iliff lamented.

Photos: Jack Turner