Protecting water quality and estuarine habitats in the Chesapeake Bay are central components of MPA's environmental programs. The following are a few examples of how MPA protects water quality.
Sediment in some areas of the Baltimore Harbor contains chemical contaminants. When this sediment is dredged from the bottom, Maryland law requires placing it within a "confined disposal facility."This usually consists of a diked area constructed in open water, along a shoreline, or at an upland site. The dikes prevent the dredged material from mixing with the open aquatic environment. Spillways, which release excess water back to the Bay or river, are constantly monitored to ensure that the released water meets both health and environmental standards.
As part of the state's Dredged Material Monitoring Program, MPA and its partners monitor water quality, bottom sediments, and aquatic life to ensure that these facilities are successfully containing the contaminants. Ongoing monitoring has demonstrated success-for example, water discharged from the Port's facilities is typically less acidic than rain.
Stormwater washes across hard surfaces like roads and parking lots, and carries pollutants into local waterways. Typical stormwater pollutants include sediment, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxic materials. Stormwater runoff is a major source of water pollution in urban areas.
MPA has developed and implemented a number of plans to control stormwater runoff and requires Port tenants to have storm water management plans in place for their own operations.
When developing new facilities, MPA offsets its stormwater impact by conducting restoration projects in other parts of the city. Project locations include schoolyards, parks, universities, highway medians, and public housing developments. As of 2009, the Schoolyard Greening Program has replaced nearly seven acres of schoolyard blacktop with grass, trees, and gardens.
MPA's Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plans require the use of containment techniques and counter measures to prevent oil spills from reaching navigable waters. MPA has assisted Port tenants in developing and/or upgrading plans for their own facilities.
MPA also funds a navigation system designed to ensure ship safety and protect coastal marine resources from spills. The Upper Chesapeake Bay Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) provides ship masters and pilots with accurate, real-time information required for safe vessel loading and transit. The system prevents ship groundings and collisions that could potentially result in catastrophic environmental harm.
MPA developed Best Management Practices for Port tenants that outline environmentally sound practices for washing vehicles and equipment. These BMP help reduce the environmental impacts associated with discharges from washing the exterior surfaces of vehicles and equipment, and they provide for the collection, treatment, and disposal of waste water generated by washing operations.