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Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published April 18, 2011

GOVERNOR MARTIN O’MALLEY ANNOUNCES TASK FORCE TO EXAMINE SEPTIC POLLUTION



Governor signs Executive Order establishing Task Force to include agriculture, science, development and public sectors

MILLERSVILLE, MD (April 18, 2011) – Governor Martin O’Malley today joined Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Steve Lafferty, lead sponsors of this year’s septics legislation in the Senate and House of Delegates, and others for the signing of an Executive Order on septics pollution. The Executive Order creates a Task Force composed of a broad cross-section of representatives from business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy and government to study the issue of the use of septic systems in Maryland, and the extent to which they contribute to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

“There’s greater recognition now for the societal costs of sprawl development on septic. Continuing down the same path will undercut the progress we’ve made on restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay and will overburden our farmers and other industries that are making changes to limit pollution in our waterways,” said Governor O’Malley. “I look forward to reviewing the conclusions from this task force as it examines the issue in greater depth, and my hope is that it will serve to inform our efforts next year to successfully ban new, major developments from relying on polluting septics in our state.”

The creation of the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal follows a vigorous debate on the issue during the 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly over the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act (SB 846 and HB 1107). Ultimately, the General Assembly concluded more time was needed to study the issue. Today, Governor O’Malley’s Executive Order establishes the framework of that study.

"Creating a new policy for rural septic use is a win-win solution: it retains our rural farm area and reduces both sprawl and nitrogen, and the attendant and enduring harmful effects of both,” said Senator Paul Pinsky.

"I am very pleased that the Governor is announcing this task force so soon after the legislative session ended, said Delegate Lafferty. “It is a clear recognition that we must address Maryland's future growth and economy without continued reliance on septic systems. We must find new ways to support growth while greatly reducing the pollution septics are causing to our Bay and waterways."

During the next 25 years, new Maryland developments relying on septic systems are expected to account for 26 percent of growth, but 76 percent of new nitrogen pollution. In other words, a quarter of the State’s future growth will cause three-fourths of its future wastewater pollution. Septic proliferation also fragments vital agricultural and forest lands and fuels dispersed land consumption, resulting in increased public costs and the need for additional roads, schools and other public services beyond the State’s growth areas.

Currently, approximately 411,000 Maryland households are on septic systems. If nothing is done, total nitrogen load from septic systems will increase by 36 percent over the next 25 years. Nitrogen is the most damaging pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's waterways. To comply with the EPA’s Bay “pollution diet” Maryland must reduce nitrogen 21 percent by 2020.

In March, Governor O’Malley testified before the General Assembly and delivered a presentation outlining the extent of the damage the continued proliferation of septic systems will do to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Executive Order requires the Task Force to report its findings by December 1, 2011. The Task Force will include the members from the Senate and House, and the secretaries of the Maryland Department of Planning, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources. It will also include the chairs of the Critical Area Commission and Sustainable Growth Commission; local government officials, environmental advocates and representatives from the scientific community, agriculture, development and real estate.

Governor O’Malley signed the Executive Order at the Arlington Echo Environmental Education Center, a facility of the Anne Arundel County Public School System on the Severn River in Millersville. The Center serves to inform students and parent volunteers about how their actions affect the Chesapeake Bay and to motivate them to take Bay-friendly actions when they return home. The Severn lies in the Lower Western Shore Watershed, which has the greatest nutrient pollution load from septic systems in Maryland.