Monday, February 28, 2011

Sewage in the News!

Nitrogen-removing septics might be way to go

Some more verbiage on the possible consequences of Gov. O'Malley's proposal to ban septic systems on any new housing developments with 5 or more houses.   This one is more interesting than many because it is couched in terms of its effects on our county, Calvert:
While the ban would affect the entire state, Calvert County government will have the task of enforcing it, and right now more information is needed to fully understand the impact it will have. Commissioners' President Susan Shaw noted that with the definition of a major subdivision including as few as five houses, it could affect a farmer who wants to give portions of his land to his children. "So if you had a 300-acre farm and you wanted to put five houses on it, you'd have to get water and sewer. It's impractical," she said.

O'Malley subsequently said the proposal would not affect farmers trying to do that, but the language of the bill does not address the issue — it only defines a subdivision as having five or more lots.

While not the sexiest issue around, sewage has been a hot topic in Calvert County over the years. Portions of the county have gotten sewer lines in the past decade, making way for growth spurts in places like the Lusby town center. Other town centers, like St. Leonard, are debating the benefits of having sewer, because some of the residents do not want similar growth.
I'm not so focused on the problem of the farmer with five kids, sure it's a problem that arises, but rather rarely.  Farms around here have fissioned off family pieces, but rarely five at a time.  The issue in my mind is the continued ability of Calvert County to absorb new people and services.  We are predominantly a bedroom community for people who work else where, D.C., Lexington Park, or even further afield.  People come here because there housing is relatively cheap compared to the urban centers, the schools are better, and you can buy a house with some trace of nature around it.  People value that.  To require that essentially all development will require a sewage treatment plant would be prohibitive for much of that development, which is a large part of our county's economy, and freeze it into an exclusive bed room community.  I don't think that's a healthy condition.

Remember, all septic systems in MD are only contribution contributing about 8% of the states nitrogen to the Bay.  Will the restrictions cut that that to 6% or 4%?  Is that enough to take people's freedom to live where they would like to live for?  Can the new N removing septic systems (already mandated in the critical areas) make the same or a similar difference, and continue to allow people freedom of choice as to where to live?

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