Wednesday, June 22, 2011

O'Malley Names Panel to "Study" Septic Pollution

Continuing his push to limit development on septic systems, Gov. Martin O'Malley named a 28-member task force to study the environmental and health impacts of on-site sewage disposal. 
A press release from the governor's office calls the task force broad-based, with representatives of business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy and government. A quick scan of its members, though, suggests the panel is stacked at least modestly in favor of the governor's position that septic-based development needs to be limited.

O'Malley contends curbs on septic-based growth are needed to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay and to curb suburban sprawl.

"This effort is not about stopping growth" O'Malley said in a statement. "It is about stemming the tide of major housing developments built on septic systems to generate clean water and protect our environment and public health."
We've seen the preliminary parts of this political fight before, here, here, here and here.
Developers, farmers and some local officials, though, complained that the legislation supported by the governor would stunt growth in rural and some suburban areas of the state. The bill O'Malley backed would have barred septic systems for any "major" subdvisions with more than five homes, and would have required more costly and less polluting septic systems be used on individual homes or smaller developments.
Rural and much of suburban Maryland depends heavily on septic systems.  It's hard to imagine that a ban or even partial ban on new septic systems will not impact jobs and development in those regions of Maryland.  And the contribution of the septic systems to the nutrient pollution in the Bay is small, approximately 7-8% of the total nitrogen.  Is it worth hampering a significant portion of the economy of these areas to prevent an increase to 10%, especially when contributions from other sources, municipal sewage, atmospheric emissions, and agriculture are expected to decline?

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