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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: baltimore county department of environmental protection and sustainability
photo of a capped residential wellKevin Koepenick, Manager, Ground Water Management Section
Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection & Sustainability

As the primary agency responsible for permitting domestic wells and septic systems for Baltimore County, my staff and I receive frequent questions from county residents about the safety of their well water.  Specifically, they are interested in knowing how often their wells should be tested, what parameters should be tested, and who can do the testing.

I recommended that all private drinking water wells be regularly tested for bacteria.  The US EPA recommends testing for bacteria annually, but it is probably most important to test for bacteria immediately following any plumbing work (adding a bathroom, replacing a well pump, etc.) or if you notice your wellhead is damaged or was flooded, or if your well water gets cloudy after it rains.  Nitrate levels should also be monitored (but less frequently) to ensure that they are below the 10 ppm standard for drinking water, and pH is important to watch to assess if your water is corrosive.  Depending on your specific tastes /preferences, it is also recommended that you test for iron, manganese, chlorides, and hardness.  If you notice a gasoline or oily smell in your well water or suspect leakage from a nearby underground fuel storage tank, you should probably have your water tested for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

In certain areas of the county you may also want to test for radium. Testing has confirmed that roughly 10-15% of the wells tested in areas underlain by Baltimore, Setters, and Slaughterhouse Gneiss formations have levels of radium above the US EPA drinking water standards.  The good news is that radium is easily removed by a standard water softener (a common water treatment device). 

As a private water supply, water quality testing is the responsibility of the homeowner.  There are a number of local private laboratories who provide these services.  For more details about water quality testing, wells and available labs, go to our website: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/environment/groundwatermgt/index.html

If you are interested in understanding more about radium, be sure and read the educational booklet entitled ‘Radionuclides and Your Well Water: A Homeowners Guide.”  You can also call our office at 410-887-2762 or send us an email at groundwater@baltimorecountymd.gov with any questions you might have.


Jerry Siewierski
Waste Management Program Manager

Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Do you ever wonder what to do with left over paints and chemicals in your basement and garage? You know that some of these materials are too dangerous to pour down the drain or throw into the garbage can.  Some, like gasoline, paint thinners or pesticides are pretty obvious, but others are not quite so apparent.

Did you know that swimming pool chemicals can react with other materials in your trash to create toxic gases or catch fire?  Or that drain cleaners come in two types, strong acids or strong bases?  You remember way back from high school chemistry class what happens if a strong acid and strong base get together….not good for whoever is nearby. Did you know that fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, or that rechargeable batteries contain toxic metals such as lead or cadmium?

It doesn’t take a chemist to picture what happens when liquid paints leak out of the garbage can or garbage truck onto our roads and streets and people ride over it w/ their cars….makes a real mess.  You probably didn’t know that some latex paints are re-usable.  Baltimore County has been recycling latex paints since 1998 and has recycled over 155,821 gallons.  That’s enough to fill 20 tanker trucks. The paints go to area non-profit groups for distribution to schools, churches and low-income residents.

This time of year, you can take these paints and chemicals to the county’s Eastern Sanitary Landfill drop off center, located at 6259 Days Cove Road in White Marsh. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., from April through November. 

To make the program convenient for residents in other areas, Baltimore County operates one day collection events at other sites.  This year’s events are scheduled for Sunday, April 14th from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. at the Texas Landfill on Warren Rd in Cockeysville; and Sunday, November 10th from 9am to 1pm at the Western Acceptance Facility, 3310 Transway Rd in Halethorpe.

If you are not sure what to do with your leftover household paints or chemicals, or have any questions, call the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection at 410 887-3745 and we’ll be happy to help you.


Baltimore County Cool Treesby Vincent J. Gardina
 Director of Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Imagine if you invented a simple, low-cost, low-tech piece of equipment that could lower energy costs, absorb air pollution and soak up stormwater runoff. Imagine if this invention was also beautiful, cool, could be placed almost anywhere and actually raised property values and people’s sense of community. You guessed it – I’m talking about trees.

Everyone knows that planting trees helps the environment in a number of ways, but did you know that strategic tree planting actually cuts energy costs in buildings? The Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) recently completed a project to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to optimize the planting of trees around County buildings as an affordable technique to cool buildings as well as contributing to a better local environment.  

The “Cool Trees” program planted 957 native shade trees at 46 County schools, eight police precincts/PAL centers, seven community centers, five senior centers, all three CCBC campuses, two libraries, two fire stations, and one health center. By planting trees within sixty feet of the south, west and east facades of buildings, the energy needed for cooling will be reduced by 30%. In a unique approach, EPS used GIS software to evaluate data about all County buildings, schools and CCBC buildings and identify the best locations as well as the precise spots to plant the trees to maximize energy savings.

Over just the next 30 years, the $500,000 invested in Cool Trees will provide more than $2 million in benefits, a 300% return on investment. Funded through a $7.4 million U.S. Department of Energy Grant, the goal of this grant is to reduce energy consumption and create jobs. Over the next 30 years, the $500,000 invested in Cool Trees is estimated to provide in excess of $2 million worth of energy savings and other environmental benefits – a 300% return on investment.

We chose the name “Cool Trees” because trees are cool, as in nifty, dandy, keen and marvelous. They are also cool as in temperature reducing. If every household in Baltimore County planted a native species large canopy tree within sixty feet of the south, west or east facades of their homes, energy consumption could be reduced by 30% during the summer, and water flowing to the Bay would be cleaner and more healthy for aquatic life. Plant a tree, save energy, reduce stormwater runoff and be COOL!


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