To Save Chesapeake, Maryland Governor Aims to Outlaw Septics ~

One item in Maryland Governor Martin O Malley s State of the State speech on February 3 caught the building industry by surprise. Saying that Maryland had totally failed to address the problem of water pollution caused by leaching from residential septic systems, O Malley proposed that the state ban on-site sewage treatment in major new developments in the state. Septic systems are one of the top four sources of nitrogen entering the sensitive Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, O Malley said. Bloomberg has this report ( O'Malley urges tough budget choices, septic limits by Brian Witte). Reaction was predictably strong, reports the Baltimore Sun ( Developers distressed over bid to curb septic systems by Timothy B. Wheeler). Republican delegate Michael Smigiel said, This is a direct attack on the private property rights of rural landowners in Maryland. But Kim Coble, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, called the proposal a bold step saying in a statement, All the progress we hope to make in reducing pollution from other sources wastewater treatment plants, urban and suburban streets, coal plants, cars, farms all could be undone if we continue to allow sprawl growth using septic systems in our rural areas. Political observers say the future of the proposal is uncertain. But the impact could be significant, both ecologically and economically. Reports the Sun, While the majority of Marylanders live in homes served by public sewers, there are about 430,000 septic systems statewide, and state planners project that another 145,000 could be built in the next 20 years. House for house and toilet for toilet, septic systems emit ten times more nitrogen into surface waters than public sewage treatment plants, the paper reports, and existing systems are responsible for about 7% of Maryland s nitrogen contribution to the Chesapeake Bay. But the systems also enable construction in rural areas, and provide jobs, the paper notes. One septic system contractor told the paper he might have to lay off a third of his 15 workers if the governor s idea became law.