Engaging Communities for a Cleaner Bay

AGNR professor Paul Leisnham accepts congratulations from U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin for winning a $700,000 EPA grant.

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

September 24, 2012 Sara Gavin

Researchers from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) have been awarded a competitive grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an innovative proposal designed to help communities tackle stormwater and reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.

Representatives from the College of AGNR, EPA, community organizations and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin gathered to announce the $700,000 grant Monday at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park overlooking the Anacostia River. The funding will allow researchers to develop a strategic, community-based plan for improving stormwater runoff, the fastest growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its local rivers including the Anacostia and Patuxent.

Paul Leisnham, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology (ENST), is serving as the lead for the UMD research team which includes members from AGNR and University of Maryland Extension (UME), as well as the School of Public Health and the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

“We have scientists, engineers, hydrologists, public health and Extension personnel, and we’re partnering with a number of community-based organizations,” said Leisnham. “We’ll really know at the end of the project what works, what doesn’t work and we’ll have long-term, sustainable success.”

Researchers will focus specifically on improving the management of stormwater in Howard County, Md.’s Wilde Lake watershed and the District of Columbia’s Watts Branch watershed. The group will use a unique and comprehensive approach that includes surveys, interviews, photo documentary and cutting-edge diagnostic software to identify problem areas, increase the use and awareness of best management practices, and develop solutions.

The three-year grant is being funded through the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, which awards research funds in numerous environmental science and engineering disciplines.

“These are very competitive grants, they’re very difficult to get,” remarked Sen. Cardin. “This speaks volumes to the fact that the University (of Maryland) has the capacity, as well as the relationships with the private sector and local governments, to be able to make a difference here and give confidence, so it’s a real feather in the cap of the university.”

For more information, contact Sara Gavin at 301-405-9532 or sgavin@umd.edu.