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Sediment Threshold Is Being Set for the South River For the First Time

Make your voice heard! 

Maryland Department of the Environment is hosting an event next Wednesday to get public input on the creation of a threshold amount of sediment (Total Maximum Daily Load; TMDL) entering the South River. Sediment is the number one pollutant for the South River, both by volume and by impact. Help put the South River on a "dirt diet!"

WHEN: Wednesday, February 1st, 7PM

WHERE: Edgewater Community Library (25 Stepneys Lane, Edgewater, MD 21037)

View more information about the TMDL process here.                                                                        

View the Maryland Department of the Environment Summary Fact sheet here.

WHAT: The one month public comment period on the proposed Draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for sediment in the non-tidal streams of the South River watershed has begun. The public comment period ends February 21, 2017, and the MDE will be hosting a public meeting on the TMDL on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 7pm at the Edgewater Public Library.

The TMDL is issued pursuant to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, which directs each State to identify and list waters where water quality standards are not being met. For these waters, the State must either develop a TMDL or prove that water quality standards are in fact being met.

The South River’s listing on the 303(d) list is based on assessment of the health of benthic populations and fish populations. The goal of the TMDL is to reduce sediment loadings in watershed streams to the point where the benthic and fish populations reach levels observed in seven reference streams elsewhere in the coastal plain. Even if the sediment reductions articulated in the TMDL are realized, the South River will not be de-listed until the benthic and fish populations reach the target levels.

Some highlights from the TMDL include:

  • Baseline Load of Sediment is estimated to be 1,982 Tons/year
  • The proposed TMDL Goal is 1,546 Tons/year ( a reduction of 22%)
  • None of the 12 water quality monitoring stations used to compile data was collected on either of the two most polluted creeks on the South River (Church Creek and Broad Creek). Most of the stations were located in the upper and less developed area of the watershed.
  • Largest source of sediment is from regulated (NPDES permitted) urban sources
  • In addition to sediment, the South River is impaired by chlorides, which will require development of a separate TMDL

South River Characteristics reflected in the TMDL report:

  • Watershed drainage area is 36,200 acres with a population of 75,800 (2010 Census)
  • 65.4% of soils in watershed are Group B—moderately deep, moderately well drained
  • Land uses:
    • Forest-56.6%
    • Urban-36.5%
    • Crop/Pasture-5.9%
    • Water-1%

Unique Features of the South River:

1) The South River is located inside a naturally formed geological soil band where Phosphorus is bonded to the sediment particle. For most of the Chesapeake rivers, sediment is just dirt and clouds the water making it difficult for sun to reach underwater grasses, blankets fish spawning gravel beds with muck, and is irritating to the gills for many aquatic species. Dirt also often acts as a carrier for other chemicals and pollutants, which often drop out of the water column into the mud once it reaches the tops of our creeks.

SEDIMENT (common dirt) is the LARGEST Pollutant by Volume and by Impact to the River.

However, for the South River streams, dirt not only makes the river chocolate brown colored, but because of its bond with Phosphorous it is a nutrient too, which causes algae blooms, which suck oxygen out of the river and can be harmful to humans and pets (such as red tides or mahogany tides).

NUTRIENTS (Phosphorous and Nitrogen) is the second biggest pollutant for the River.                           

Because nutrients fuel algae blooms, it is the pollutant most closely tied whether the river is fishable or swimmable. On the South River, sediment is both are #1 and #2 biggest pollutants.

2) Thanks in part to visionary conservation planning, the top of the South River is mostly forested. And if you walk along Bacon Ridge Branch, the forest looks pristine and natural. However, Bacon Ridge got its name from the days when the top of the river had many hog farms. The legacy soil, which was trampled by thousands of hogs for decades, is extremely nutrient rich and very fine as well as highly erosive. So while the current land use is categorized as forest, the soil is actually more similar to that found in agricultural land use. Sediment TMDLs are calculated using equations based on type of land use.

For more information about the TMDL process, click here.                                                                        

For the Maryland Department of the Environment Summary Fact sheet, click here.                                                      

Contact South Riverkeeper Jesse Iliff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 410-224-3802 ext. 203