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April 18, 2011

O'Malley forms task force to study curbs on septic sprawl

Gov. Martin O'Malley created a task force today to figure out how to curb pollution of the Chesapeake Bay from septic systems, saying he hoped the study would help overcome "fears" of the legislation he had introduced this year that would have banned major housing developments relying on them.

"We must find a way to grow in a clean, green, more sustainable way," O'Malley said prior to signing an executive order establishing the task force. He held the signing ceremony at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center on the Severn River, where household septic systems account for roughly 30 percent of the nitrogen fouling the water.

Currently, about 411,000 Maryland households are on septic systems. Although a relatively small source of nitrogen pollution baywide compared with sewage plants or farm runoff, septic leakage of the harmful nutrient could increase by 36 percent over the next 25 years if nothing is done, state officials project. 

O'Malley's bid to curb major housing developments on septic systems failed to get out of committee in Annapolis after rural lawmakers, farmers and developers raised an outcry, warning that it would throttle growth and cost jobs in the state's rural and suburban counties.

The governor was joined by Del. Steve Lafferty, a Baltimore County Democrat who had sponsored the septic curb legislation the governor wanted, and by Del. Maggie McIntosh, head of the House Environmental Matters Committee who had tabled the measure for further study.

McIntosh, a Baltimore city Democrat, said she hoped the study would take a broader look at how septic systems fit into the state's Smart Growth policies.  

The task force is to include members of the House and Senate, state secretaries of the environment, natural resources, agriculture and planning, local government officials, environmental activists, scientists, developers and farmers.  It's ordered to report its findings by Dec. 1, a month before the next session of the General Assembly.

Not coincidentally, the Maryland State Builders Association released ar report today estimating that Maryland's overall efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, not just septic curbs, would cost the state's taxpayers, businesses and consumers $21 billion by 2017, trimming some 65,000 jobs from the economy.

(House with septic system under construction in Baltimore County.  Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 4:11 PM | | Comments (4)


Why do they continue with task forces? If it's important enough to fix, pass a tax. If not, stop talking about it, and create one job.

The tax already exists; it is called the "Flush Tax". 60% of the Tax goes to upgrading wastewater treatment plans and to assist homeowners with upgrading their septic system. The remaining 40% is WASTED by paying farmers to plant cover crops that go in so late to be of little value. The newest and best technology must be used to protect ground water.

The University of Minnesota has already looked into this. At least Minnesota didn't appoint a herd of political shills to start with a conclusion and end up with bogus supporting data. Minnesota took an objective, SCIENTIFIC, look at the data and provided suggestions. They've been doing it for years; a great model for Maryland to emulate (but we all know THAT ain't gonna' happen).

TW: Thanks for the reference, MDR, but I don't get your praise of Minnesota's research over Maryland's. They seem to agree on the inability of septic systems to protect water quality from ntirogne. The web site you link to acknowledges that "a portion" of the nitrogen passes through the system into ground water.


Note my emphasis on RESEARCH by U. Minn. scientists vs MOM's "study" by his political cronies. MOM's studies, regardless of subject matter, typically start with the political conclusion, and backfill with questionable, non-peer reviewed data.

Also TW; don't you feel that a 67% reduction in septic Nitogen effluents is significant? See here:

Any reasonable jury of people would, especially when considering the costs of the MOM plan. These cost include both cash and the degraded quality of life that comes with extendeding water and sewage into rural areas.

The notion that MOM or his sycophants are going to "lead" us in this area is laughable. They won't even bother w/ the U. Minn. data because is runs counter to MOM's political objectives.

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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