STORY 3: flooding
(Patuxent River)

Why is flooding from construction sites bad?

Dirt, otherwise known as sediment, is one of the biggest problems in many rivers across the country. This is the case in Maryland and in both the Upper Patuxent River and the Little Patuxent River.  The Two Rivers development is located between the two rivers and is contributing to the problems in those water bodies and their tributaries. Sediment comes from many places, but poor residential development is a significant source, and it can smother aquatic habitat, carry numerous pollutants, and fill in natural drainage outlets such as wetlands. It can also cause property damage to neighboring communities. Construction activities remove trees and vegetation, and often alter the existing hydrology in an area in ways that significantly impact downstream and downhill neighbors. The water must go somewhere!

Who and what uses of the water is it harming? 

The neighbors downhill and downstream from the Two Rivers development have experienced the greatest impacts on their daily lives and their property values because of the flooding. The construction has altered or eliminated the places where water can percolate into the ground or be received by vegetation, thus resulting in unprecedented flooding during heavy rains. 

As the floodwater travels off the construction sites, it carries sediment and pollutants with those sediments that contribute to problems for aquatic life and wildlife in the Upper Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers. 

If your community is experiencing any of these problems, you are not alone and you can find assistance to address these problems. 

Flooding caused by construction activity at Two Rivers housing development.

A driveway (in front of the fence) totally under water after a heavy rain.

Are you living near or downstream 
of a construction site? 

Here’s what to look for…

  • Notable increases in water around your property after any rainfall or snowmelt – perched in new areas, expanded ponding, increased volume and velocity in creeks.
  • Visible cloudiness of the natural drainage pathways, creeks, and rivers nearby, downhill, and downstream of any construction site. 
  • Failing stormwater pollution management tools – silt fences on property edge, bio bags on storm drains, overflowing ponds. 
  • Cloudy water draining off the construction site and down roads or curbs.

Ask local or state agency officials about the quality of the water downstream from the construction site. Find out whether the local or state government is regularly monitoring the water downstream from the site. It is important to review or compile data that tell the story.

Community monitoring can be an incredibly helpful tool. For many pollutants, it isn’t that complicated, however, you need to be properly trained. For the local or state government or a court of law to take the results seriously, it is important to have a reputable lab analyze the samples.

Flooding in a Patuxent River Community

In about 2010, the original developers of Two Rivers came to the residents along Meyers Station Road in Odenton, Maryland – all downhill and downstream from the planned development – and told them of their plans for a senior housing development nearby. These residents brought their neighbors together to hear about the plans, and the company took them to a completed development in New Jersey to see the intended finished product. 

However, in the several years since 2010 the nature of the development expanded to include all-ages neighborhoods. The development itself caused flooding, erosion, and sedimentation in the tributaries of the Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers that significantly disrupted the lives of the residents, impacted their property values, and contributed excessive sediment pollution to the Patuxent River and its tributaries.

What did local residents do about it?

Residents formed a small organization, Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Association (FPIA), to work together on threats to their watershed. FPIA first raised concerns to the Ann Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning and Department of Inspections and Permits. These complaints did result in the county expanding a culvert under a private road, but that didn’t solve the problem or deal with the impacts of what was yet to come. Even after years of complaints about the failed storm water management systems to the County, Maryland Department of the Environment, Patuxent River Commission, and U.S. EPA Region 3, the problems as of early 2023 persist and the construction continued and expanded.