Q: What is the Clean Water Program?
A: In 2010, the federal government required states to meet new standards under the Clean Water Act to address stormwater runoff pollution from impervious areas that don’t absorb water such as parking lots, roads, and roofs. To meet this mandate, Governor Martin O’Malley last year signed into law House Bill 987 (the Clean Water Program) that requires nine Maryland Counties and the City of Baltimore to collect a fee from property owners to implement the program and enact a Clean Water Act Fee.
Q: Are any properties excluded from the Clean Water Act Fee?
A: Yes. The following are exempt from the Clean Water Act Fee:
- Property owned by the Federal Government
- Property owned by the State, a unit of the State Government, Prince George’s County, Municipalities in Prince George's County (except City of Bowie)
- Regularly organized Volunteer Fire Department
- Lands with an agricultural use assessment (fee based on impervious surface measurement of the principal residential structure only)
Q: What if I have multiple tax accounts and want to combine them into one account?
A: Property owners may request in writing to combine multiple accounts to the Prince George’s County Department of Assessment and Taxation, either by fax or mail. This request must include account numbers or addresses of the properties in question and the procedure includes an investigation and field verification by the assessment office.
Department of Assessment and Taxation
14735 Main Street, Room #356B
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Q: How does this relate to the County Stormwater Management Ad Valorem Fund?
A: To deal with the ubiquitous impacts of stormwater runoff to which your property contributes, the county has relied on the Stormwater Management District Fund which is governed by Section 10-264 of the County Code. The fund is not a dedicated stormwater funding source to address water quality mandates.
The Clean Water Act Fee will provide a dedicated revenue source for addressing stormwater runoff and improving water quality. The charge is based on a property’s assessed impervious surface coverage providing a mechanism to equitably allocate the fee based on a property's stormwater contribution. Thus, each property contributes a fair and equitable share toward the overall cost of improving water quality and mitigating the impact of stormwater runoff. It will provide a stable and adequate level of funding for regulatory mandates such as the Watershed Implementation Plan and the NPDES MS4 Permit independent of the Ad Valorem and General Fund.
Q: I don't have any stormwater problems. Why do I pay the Fee?
A: Although the effects may not be directly apparent, stormwater from the impervious surfaces on your property contributes to a cumulative downstream effect that includes:
(1) an increases in the runoff quantity, and
(2) a reduction in the quality of stormwater leaving your property due to contaminants that are picked up from impervious surfaces.
Everyone benefits from the clean water found in our rivers and streams that is supported by the county's stormwater control and maintenance programs. The benefits associated with clean water also translates into monetary benefits such as healthier communities, reduced water rates, and reduced public monies spent on emergencies related to flooding and other water damage.
Q: Why am I being charged for stormwater when I already pay for water and sewer service?
A: The Clean Water Act Fee has nothing to do with potable (drinking) water or wastewater, or whether you’re on a central public water and sewer service system. The drinking water and wastewater services on your property are part of distribution and collection networks that are completely separate from the Clean Water Program.
The Clean Water Act Fee is being charged for the service the County provides to control, store, and/or treat stormwater leaving your property. Unlike wastewater, stormwater that leaves your property and enters the storm drain system receives no treatment prior to its discharge into downstream waterways.
Q: Do I have to pay the Clean Water Act Fee if I have my own well and septic system?
A: Yes. The Clean Water Act Fee relates to the stormwater drainage and conveyance system, which is completely separate from the water and sanitary sewer system. The Clean Water Act Fee is based upon how much stormwater runoff your property can generate based on impervious cover thereby contributing to the County’s water quality problems.
Q: What is stormwater runoff pollution?
A: Every day, trash, oil, sediment, chemicals, and other pollutants collect on our rooftops, roads, parking lots, and driveways. When it rains, the pollutants travel over these surfaces, flow into the storm drain system, and in great volume end up in our creeks, rivers, lakes, and streams. Below are some common sources and concerns for each type of pollutant.
Construction sites; bare spots in lawn or garden; wastewater from washing cars and boats on driveways or in parking lots; unprotected and eroding stream banks.
Loss or destruction of habitat for fish and plants.
Potential navigation hindrances.
Animal and pet waste; malfunctioning septic systems; sewer overflows.
Serious risk to human health.
Closure of shellfish beds and beaches.
Overused or spilled fertilizers; animal or pet waste; grass clippings and leaves left on streets and sidewalks; leaves burned in ditches.
Increased potential for nuisance or toxic algae blooms.
Lower levels of dissolved oxygen.
Car and truck exhaust; metallic debris from brake pads; oil leaks; gas spills; improperly applied pesticides.
Serious risk to aquatic life.
Debris / Litter
Improperly discarded plastic, fishing line, six-pack rings, Styrofoam, plastic bags, cigarette butts, bottles, cans, paper, wrappers, etc.
Potential risk to human health and aquatic life.
Unpleasant to see along the side of a road or the bank of a river.
Expensive to clean up properly.
Q: Hasn’t the County always had storm drains?
A: Yes, the county has had storm drains for a long time. However, recent Federal and State regulations requiring reductions in pollutant loading and stormwater management necessitate that the county enhance their stormwater management program. The Clean Water Act Fee enables the county to meet its responsibilities to reduce stormwater runoff pollution from impervious areas.
Q: When does the fee go into effect?
A: The Clean Water Act Fee was established and went into effect on July 1, 2013.
Q: Can the fee be modified or reduced?
A: Property owners that retrofit their property with approved Best Management Practices that reduce the quantity or improve the quality of stormwater discharged from their property can receive up to a 100 percent reduction in the impact fee. Additionally, under the rebates program, the county will provide a limited amount of rebate funds each year to property owners to retrofit their properties. If there is an error in the way the county calculated the fees, an appeal can be made to the Department of the Environment.
Q: Do tax-exempt properties have to pay?
A: Yes. The Clean Water Act Fee is a charge, not a property tax, since it is based on a properties’ relative contribution to stormwater runoff which requires costly remediation. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of the property. The Clean Water Act fee is paid by all residential property owners and associated non-residential property owners that have impervious surface regardless of ownership or tax status. The Clean Water Act fee is assessed based on the impervious cover of a property, which contributes to the amount of stormwater runoff from that the property. All impervious surfaces contribute to pollution and flooding problems and, therefore, all property owners are subject to the fee.
Q: Isn't this essentially a State tax on rainwater?
A: The Clean Water Act Fee is a user fee because it charges property owners for a service. That service is managing the stormwater runoff and associated pollutants coming from their property.
Q: Are the fees fair and equitable?
A: Prince George’s County is dedicated to meeting our federal requirements while keeping the fees as low as possible. Our fee structure is equitable and lower than most Maryland Counties.
Q: Will there be a program for financial hardship?
A: The County’s Office of Finance will identify whether the property owner received a Homeowners Property Tax Credit from the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation. If the credit has been received, the tax bill will be credited for the full amount of the fee.
Q: Is the Clean Water Act Fee tax deductible?
A: No. The Clean Water Act Fee may not be deducted from Federal or State income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service does not consider the Clean Water Act Fee to be tax deductible for homeowners, but it may be deducted for other types of non-residential properties such as industrial properties and businesses.
Q: How will the Clean Water Act Fee be collected?
A: The Clean Water Act Fee will be a separate line item on your annual property tax bill.
Q: What happens if I do not pay my Clean Water Act Fee?
A: The Clean Water Act Fee must be paid in full at the same time as the rest of your property tax bill. If you choose not to pay, the interest on the overdue payment will accrue according to county laws and regulations. You will be charged the same rate in place for delinquent real property taxes until you remit the outstanding payment and interest. An unpaid Clean Water Act Fee is subject to all penalties and remedies that apply to unpaid real property taxes. If the unpaid charge becomes a lien against the property, the lien has the same priority as a lien imposed for nonpayment of real property taxes.
Q: Do I have to pay for any undeveloped properties that I own?
A: Yes, you will be charged a minimal administration fee for each property to help cover the costs of the Clean Water Program, unless you meet the eligibility criteria for financial hardship (see question above), in which case the fee will be waived.
Q: Do I have to pay for any unoccupied developed properties that I own?
A: Yes, because that property contains impervious area.
Q: Do agricultural properties pay the fee?
A: Yes, but the fee is based only on the impervious surface area of the principal residential property, and not the land in agriculture.
Q: Don’t I already pay for a stormwater program?
A: Yes, but that program is designated for flood control, not clean water.
Q: Download the Clean Water Act FAQ flyer