Unfortunately, Tim Wheeler's front-page story, "'Greener' city bars woodchip driveway" (Jan. 18) has had the unintended consequence of creating a storm of misinformation around this issue. While wood chips are a "permeable surface" that allows water to drain into the soil rather than going straight into the storm drain system untreated, they do have their problems. From a sustainability perspective, driveways are designed to ultimately drain into our stream system, and you want to avoid putting additional organic material (such as wood chips) into the stream. The chips, like leaves, will break down and eventually end up going into the storm drains, potentially clogging that system. Also organic material lowers dissolved oxygen that causes fish kills, among other things.
Present law does not require property owners like Maxine Taylor to pave their driveways at all. Present law requires only minimal wheel strips -- 18 inches wide apiece -- and even they do not have to made of concrete or asphalt but can be made of semi-permeable material, like pavers. Ms. Taylor and citizens like her can help the Chesapeake Bay and the overall environment by leaving the vast majority of their driveways permeable to rainwater -- and still comply with local laws. Together, Baltimore City's Green Building Law and Maryland's new stormwater management legislation place Baltimore City and the state of Maryland at the cutting edge of storm water management and in all likelihood, years ahead of national codes.
Michael Braverman, Baltimore
The writer is deputy commissioner for code enforcement in the Baltimore Housing Department.
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