New Pollution Prevention Plan Targets OC’s Downtown First

OCEAN CITY – A summer intern in the Environmental Engineering Department impressed the Mayor and City Council this week after she and Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer presented a plan to help prevent the polluting issues involved in the downtown area.

Blazer and student intern Leslie Hurley presented a Pollution Prevention and Habitat Enhancement Plan this week. Hurley grew up in Ocean City and now attends Southern Methodist University where she studies environmental engineering and Spanish.

Blazer explained that Hurley was tasked to evaluate what the specific problems are in regards to pollutants and habitat enhancements within the downtown and upper downtown areas. She then was to identify the pollutants and their sources to then develop a Pollutant Prevention and Habitat Enhancement plan.

According to the action plan, the Pollution Prevention Plan for the downtown and upper downtown areas of Ocean City has been drafted to reduce pollution, improve water quality and enhance the habitat in these neighborhoods.

Blazer explained that the first step in the process in creating the plan was to evaluate the impacts each audience has on the town’s resources. The different audiences the plan address are residential, hotel/motel, parking facilities, amusement, Boardwalk retail, restaurants, marinas and public property.

“So whatever the downtown area has with regards to commercial Boardwalk shops, condominiums, or marinas we have a developed a specific pollution prevention plan for each one of those,” Blazer said.

By evaluating the impact each made, they were able to determine what the problems are and how they each contribute. They then outlined the pollution prevention and habitat enhancement plan for each of the target audiences.

The document will be distributed to downtown residents and property and business owners as a way to spread awareness of the issues that the area faces and more importantly the changes that can be made.

According to Blazer, the funding for the plan and the projects is from a mitigation fund that developers pay into when their projects do not meet full compliance with the Critical Area ordinance.

“We have collected money since 2003, and we have really never had a spending plan for that money,” Blazer said. “We currently have $23,000 in this specific mitigation account and the money was intended to be used in the downtown area first.”

Proposed projects to be funded with the money will give property and business owners an incentive to improve storm water management on their property. Projects will include subsidized rain barrels, BayScape and rain garden mini grants and private retrofits to prevent flooding.

The funds will also provide a retrofit at Wightside to provide a filter or baffle box system to trap or filter sediment flowing off of the public works property.

The action plan also provides public education posters that will include a Restaurant Best Management Practices Poster, Dumpster Inspection Checklist Poster, Boater Informational Poster, Cigarette Butt campaign poster, and a General Stormwater Education Poster.

The Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve the Pollution Prevention and Habitat Enhancement Plan and its funding.

“I know downtown is happy because they paid into the mitigation for this,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said. “They’re getting it used in their area and people like that.”