Prince George's County is one of four Maryland counties cited by the state's water resources administration as having unacceptable sediment control programs.
The county's building inspectors "have not been aggressive enough" in enforcing the county's control regulations, according to Roy Benner, sedimentation specialist for the water resources administration. As a result, tons of sediments have run off of construction sites onto neighboring properties and, eventually, into nearby waterways.
Representatives from Prince George's and the three other counties - Anne Arundel, Charles and Allegany - will be asked to show what actions the counties have taken to improve their current programs at a series of hearings scheduled for the beginning of April. Benner said that if the programs are still found to be unsatisfactory after the hearings, the state could step in and prevent any new building permits from being issued in those counties until corrective action is taken.
The state also has the option of taking charge of the issuance of building permits in each of those counties until improvements are made in the current sediment control programs, Benner said.
A definite date for the hearings has not yet been set.
Benner said the water resources administration has been monitoring the sediment control programs of each county since 1972 and has just now completed its first comprehensive review of the programs in a report called the Triennial Review and Evaluation of Maryland Sediment Control Programs.
A 1970 state law requires all local jurisdictions to adopt a sediment control ordinance setting forth the regulations for obtaining a building permit. That law also requires each developer to formulate a sediment control plan for a specific project before obtaining a building permit. The plans must then be approved by the soil conservation district, the local arm of the water resources administration. It is up to the counties to see that the sediment control plans are placed into practice, Benner said.
In Prince George's, "the sediment control plans have been good, but we didn't always see them in practice in the field," Benner said. He said the water resources administration contacted the county 15 times since 1973 about sediment control violations on construction sites. The administration's major criticism, he said is that there aren't enough "follow-up inspections" on the sites to insure that the developer's sediment control plans are effective.
James Novak, chief building inspector for the county, said the water resources administration "has not looked in sufficient depth at our work." He said the county's building inspectors frequently visit major construction sites on a daily basis.
In the past, water resources inspectors have found that the basins installed on development sites to catch sediment before it slides into storm drains have not been cleaned out frequently enough, and that graded land has been left unseeded over long periods of time, according to Ronald Parise, of the administration's enforcement division.
Parise said sediment control problems have been common on such development sites as the Greenbrier apartments in Greenbelt; the Clinton Woods subdivision in Clinton; and the Queensland project on Rte. 301, just south of Upper Marlboro.
Fifteen jurisdictions within Prince George's county have been cited by the administration for not having any sediment control ordinance. These jurisdictions must adopt an ordinance - or at least draft one - before the April hearings, Benner said.
Although Montgomery County's sediment control program was found to be acceptable, nine jurisdictions are currently without sediment ordinances, according to the water resources administration report.