Clean water requires more than government action

Environmental IssuesEnvironmental PollutionInner HarborBaltimore CountyAnnapolisPatapsco

As The Sun's recent editorial rightly points out ("Three wins for the bay," April 16), environmental groups were real winners during the recent, contentious session of the Maryland General Assembly.

The Baltimore Harbor, the Patapsco and Back Rivers, and local streams will be cleaner thanks to legislation to reduce pollution from sewage treatment plants, storm water runoff and septic systems. Just as Baltimore plays an enormous role in the Chesapeake Bay's health, our city was key to this success and our residents will reap the rewards.

But responsibility for cleaning up our waterways doesn't rest solely with government. We each have a role to play in making our city, state and region cleaner and greener.

These were not easy bills to pass. Baltimore and Baltimore County officials traveled to Annapolis repeatedly to support these bills because they recognized not only the need but also the manifold benefits for local residents, including green infrastructure like street trees and rain gardens that provide multiple benefits. Investing in a healthier and more attractive Baltimore will create jobs and build our population.

But cleaning up our waters and our communities is not something that government alone has the resources or power to fix. We all flush toilets, drive and use parking lots that send trash downstream. Everyone can do more — such as picking up pet waste, removing trash properly and installing practices that reduce pollution at home.

In the end, a healthy Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay is not about "pollution diets" or fees; it's about healthier people, healthier ecosystems and taking responsibility for the waste we all create.

Halle Van der Gaag, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Blue Water Baltimore.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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