Anne Arundel will receive $30,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its part in a seven-county water pollution study of the Patuxent River.
The money is the county's share of a three-year, $1.25 million storm water management project that county officials hoped will serve as a nationwide model for controlling non-point source water pollution, said state Department of Environment spokesman John Goheen.
Non-point source pollution includes sediments, fertilizers and other toxins carried into the bay by storm water. Non-point sources include parking lots, farms and construction sites.
"This is the model. If we're not solving it on the Patuxent River, then we're not solving the problems on the bay," said state Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, an advocate for the river's cleanup.
Efforts to clean up thePatuxent began more than a decade ago, after several Southern Maryland counties threatened legal action against an Anne Arundel sewage treatment plant.
Initial efforts targeted point-source polluters, such as sewage treatment plants and factories. "But, now we're finding that the big culprit is non-point sources," Michael Hare, with the DOE's Chesapeake Bay and special projects division.
Each of the seven counties in the Patuxent watershed will receive $30,000 and contribute $15,000 of their own money to analyze how local land-use and zoning practices affect water quality, Hare said. For instance, he said, they might examine how a farm, parking lot or residential community adjacent to a stream affects the water.
The rest of the money will go to state agencies for building storm water management projects such as tree buffers and ponds, and to develop computer models to help predict the impact of future land-use decisions, Hare said.
Historically, ecology has had little influence on where the county directs construction and growth, said Meo Curtis, a county environmental planner. The primary objective of county zoning maps has been to direct growth into regions where services, such as water and sewer, exist or at least have been proposed, she said.
The comprehensive rezoning two years ago set aside some areas for preservation. "But this wasn't always the case, and it wasn't necessarily for environmental reasons," Curtis said. Agricultural preservation areas, for instance, were set up to protect the rural industry and way of life, she said.
Curtis said the county has not received confirmation of the grant. Because of local budget constraints, the county may not be able to pay its share of the study, she said.
Environmentalists see the Patuxent -- which has been designated as a protected scenic river -- as a modelfor the bay. The two share common problems, but, because the river is much smaller and flows entirely within Maryland, scientists can more easily monitor the effectiveness of cleanup efforts.
The Patuxent watershed covers 900 square miles.