A new online tool will allow Baltimore County residents to have a hand in tracking environmental data by reporting environmental problem areas throughout the county as well as projects aimed at mitigating some of those issues.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., announced the “Environmental Reporter” tool Tuesday as a way to increase public engagement, make county environmental data easier to access, and improve quality of life for community members.
“I pledged to make Baltimore County more data-driven and accessible to residents, and this new crowdsourcing tool will help us partner directly with community members to be more accurate and deliberate in the services we provide,” Olszewski said in a statement.
The tool will collect data about areas throughout the county that need to increase tree canopy, reduce stormwater run-off and deal with midge populations that are adversely affecting nearby communities.
Midges are a type of small non-biting fly that tends to swarm and breed near water and marshy areas. Although they are relatively harmless, they can be a nuisance for homeowners, businesses and others who frequent local waterways, the statement said.
The Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability is researching the midge issue in the county’s eastern waterfront areas.
Among those areas is the Back River, an estuary at the southeastern end of the county that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.
The Environmental Reporter tool will give the county more specific data to locate large concentrations of midges–including how far inland they swarm and where on the water there might be hot spots–so officials can figure out the best way to deal with the insects, said Sean Naron, Olszewski’s press secretary.
When reporting a midge issue, people must indicate the nuisance level from “not many” to “starting to annoy” to “intolerable.” They can also attach a picture, provide a comment, and label the location of the midges on a map.
Naron said one option to address the midge issue would be to target midge “hotspots” and treat them with Bti, a naturally occuring soil bacterium that is non-toxic to humans, mammals, birds, fish and most invertebrates, but is toxic to midge and mosquito larvae, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).
The tool will also collect data about reforestation and stormwater mitigation efforts by recording tree plantings and rain barrels.
When reporting a tree planting, people can submit the species and trunk diameter of the tree. For rain barrels, people can submit the barrel’s capacity in gallons.
Like reporting midge issues, people can also attach a picture and label the location of their tree planting or rain barrel. The name and email of the individual will be hidden from public view.
The county will incorporate data related to rain barrel and tree planting locations into an existing tracking database where the county documents its environmental restoration work, Naron said.
The information will also help with the county comply with EPA regulations about the amount of a pollutant allowed in a body of water.
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