By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Progress usually means something new. But around Baltimore’s harbor, it also means getting rid of something old.

Alex DeMetrick reports harbor-side businesses are beginning to dig into the idea.

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Baltimore rings its harbor with a lot of hard surfaces.

“Buildings, roads, sidewalks, alleys and it’s about 45 percent impervious right now, and at that level aquatic life really struggles,” said Guy Hager, Parks and People Foundation.

When it rains, runoff doesn’t soak into the ground. Instead, it runs right into the harbor, carrying pollutants with it. But people are quietly working.

“To capture that water and treat it before it enters the storm drain system,” Hager said.

It’s what nature does all on its own, as plants absorb pollutants. For years, buffer zones have been planted in Maryland’s less developed shorelines.

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“It’s really nice to put something back,” a man said.

Now plants are going in where asphalt has been removed and good old dirt is back. Industrial companies scattered around the harbor, like the Sherwin Williams paint factory, have joined efforts to re-green and return cleaner water to Baltimore’s harbor.

While restoring a natural balance is the ultimate goal, the level of cooperation by harbor-side companies has come as a pleasant surprise.

“I have been astounded at how the corporations have understood this, want to do it and try to figure out how to do it,” Hager said.

Right now, the “how” is strictly hands-on, mostly in the form of volunteers who actually do the planting.

While it’s a strip of land here or an unused lot there, nature has a way of filling things in. After all, dumps and scrap yards once bordered the harbor. There’s plenty of room for expansion.

The efforts to reclaim industrial land around the harbor is viewed as a potential model for other cities that developed along waterways.

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