Erosion and Sediment Control in Maryland
The effects of erosion and sedimentation are well known. Typically, when disturbed earth is exposed to the impacts of rainfall, there is an increase in the volume and velocity of runoff. This sets off a chain reaction that results in the transport and deposition of sediment, reduced stream capacity, and ultimately increased stream scour and flooding. Additionally, suspended sediment contributes to a decline in water quality by blocking sunlight, reducing photosynthesis, decreasing plant growth, destroying bottom dwelling species’ habitat, carrying attached pollutants such as phosphorous, and so on. The list of negative impacts is long.
Legislation, established to protect Maryland waters from various pollutants, has existed since the early 1930s. In 1961, the Maryland’s Attorney General determined sediment to be a pollutant. This determination was based upon an interpretation of a 1957 State statute and authorized sediment control regulations to be developed. A statewide sediment control program was mandated in 1970 when the General Assembly passed the Sediment Control Law. From a historical perspective, Maryland’s incentive for having an erosion and sediment control program is the Chesapeake Bay. From a practical standpoint, federal involvement via the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) provides an incentive for State and local program development. The Chesapeake Bay initiatives in 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and the NPDES municipal stormwater program have stimulated additional emphasis.
The program developed in 1970 is essentially the same that exists today with an approved plan being required for any earth disturbance of 5,000 square feet or more and 100 cubic yards or more; plan approval exemptions for agricultural uses; plan review and approval by local Soil Conservation Districts (SCD); grading ordinance adoption by local jurisdictions; utility construction inspection by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC); and criminal penalties for sediment pollution. Various programmatic improvements have included requiring sediment control plan approval prior to issuing grading and building permits (1973); requiring training and certification of "responsible personnel" (1980); shifting enforcement authority from local to State control and establishing delegation criteria (1984); requiring NPDES stormwater discharge permits for construction activity (1991); subjecting agricultural land management practices to enforcement action for sediment pollution (1992); and establishing a maximum grading unit of 20 acres (2011).
Maryland’s Erosion Control Law and regulations specify the general provisions for program implementation; procedures for delegation of enforcement authority; requirements for erosion and sediment control ordinances; exemptions from plan approval requirements; requirements for training and certification programs; criteria for plan submittal, review, and approval; and procedures for inspection and enforcement. Proper design, installation, and maintenance of erosion and sediment control practices is essential to having an effective program. MDE has established minimum criteria for effective erosion and sediment control practices. The 2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control are incorporated by reference into State regulations and serve as the official guide for erosion and sediment control principles, methods, and practices.
The erosion and sediment control Responsible Personnel Certification course (commonly known as the "green card" course) is now available on-line.
Responsible Personnel Certification is required by anyone overseeing the installation and maintenance of erosion and sediment control practices. This Certification is now available through an on-line training course developed by MDE. It is best to use Google Chrome as the browser for accessing the course. Additionally, when registering, there are options at the bottom of the page to select which set of videos to watch. Users should select the compressed videos where a slower internet speed (e.g., 2 - 3 MB per second or less) is encountered. The on-line course can be accessed here:
Note - clicking this link will take you to a location off of MDE's website. Please contact Maria Warburton at email@example.com or 410-537-3632 if there are any questions or concerns about the course.
The 2011 Standards and Specifications are available here:
2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control
Details from the 2011 Standards and Specifications are available online here:
Details from the 2011 Standards and Specifications
For additional information regarding the training program or other aspects of Maryland’s erosion and sediment control program please contact the Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program at
To Report Sediment Control Problems...
In the following counties and municipalities, please call:
|Anne Arundel County
| Bel Air
|Prince George's County
For all other locations in Maryland call the Maryland Department of the Environment: