Programs & Centers

Environmental Law Clinic

Improving Clean Water Act Compliance and Permits

Water discharge

On behalf of a number of the Waterkeepers in Maryland, including the Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc., the Patuxent Riverkeeper, the Chester River Association, the Cedar Heights Civic Association, and the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, the Clinic is investigating individual facilities' compliance with their clean water and clean air permits. The Clinic works, through negotiation and litigation, to ensure that violators bring their operations into compliance with permit requirements. This includes reviewing public records, meeting with State regulators and local citizens and meeting with facility representatives to discuss compliance issues.

A significant portion of the Clinic's work is to review and submit comments to MDE regarding the renewal of general and individual permits under the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES"). These comments urge MDE to issue strong permits that comply with all of the requirements of the Clean Water Act and state law.  For example, since 2007, Clinic students have submitted comments and negotiated individual permit conditions for the following facilities:  

Also between 2007 and 2009, the Clinic submitted substantial comments on the State General Permit for Stormwater Associated with Construction Activity that resulted in an extended review of this permit to address some of the concerns highlighted by the Clinic.  In spring 2009, the Clinic appealed MDE's issuance of this permit, and successfully negotiated a beneficial settlement agreement between the Waterkeepers and MDE.  Since then Clinic students work on ensuring the implementation of that settlement agreement, including revisions to Maryland's outdated technical standards for construction stormwater activities. 

In December 2008, on behalf of the Waterkeepers Chesapeake of Maryland, the Clinic submitted written comments to MDE on their draft regulations implementing the Stormwater Management Act of 2007.  These comments included important recommendations and feedback on both the draft regulations as well as the proposed revisions to the 2000 Stormwater Design Manual. 

Clean Water Act Enforcement

Environmental Law Clinic students working with a client

On December 7, 2009, on behalf of its clients, Waterkeepers Chesapeake of Maryland and Waterkeeper Alliance, the Clinic filed a petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Maryland Department of the Environment's delegation to enforce water pollution laws under the federal Clean Water Act.

Other examples of enforcement actions taken on behalf of clients include the Clinic's recent filing of a notice of intent to file a citizen suit for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Brandywine Coal Combustion Waste Landfill in Prince George's County, Maryland. The Clinic also filed a citizen suit for violations of the federal Clean Water Act against Hudson Farms and Perdue in Worcester County Maryland which received national attention when the Maryland Legislature threatened clinic funding due to the suit.

The Clinic also represented the nonprofit Chester River Association in litigation against a local chemical manufacturing facility that is discharging pollutants into groundwater and nearby waterways.  One of the water bodies affected, the Chester River, is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Clinic filed and argued a Motion to Intervene in Kent County Circuit Court, and filed a Clean Water Act citizen suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.  The Clinic continues to represent CRA in commenting and oversight of a consent decree between MDE and the industry, as well as in commenting on the facility's NPDES permit.

The Clinic successfully represented the Waterkeeper Alliance, among other Riverkeeper clients, in its suit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court to compel the Maryland Department of Agriculture to make available to the public Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) that poultry operations on Maryland's Eastern Shore must file under state law.  NMPs detail the amount, placement, and timing of various fertilizer applications by farmers.  Nutrient run-off from farms contributes to nitrogen and phosphorus loads in Maryland waters. 

In April 2008, Clinic client Potomac Riverkeeper joined EIP and several individual citizens in filing a federal 60-day notice of intent to sue Mirant Faulkner over the alleged illegal discharge of toxic pollutants from Mirant's coal combustion waste landfill in Charles County, Maryland, in violation of the Clean Water Act.  In May 2008, MDE filed its own state lawsuit against Mirant.  EIP, Potomac Riverkeeper, and the individual citizens then moved to intervene in the state lawsuit to stop the illegal discharges and to ensure that Mirant be held accountable for its allegedly unlawful behavior.  The Charles County Circuit Court denied the motion to intervene in September of 2009.  On behalf of its clients, the Clinic is now appealing that decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.   

More about the Clinic's ongoing activities and past successes:

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved