Governor urges action to reduce future septic pollution, even as State spends millions to correct past problems
GOLDSBORO, MD (March 9, 2011) – Governor O'Malley today visited Lake Bonnie in the Town of Goldsboro, where bacteria pollution has been linked to failing septic systems. The Governor waded into Lake Bonnie to witness pollution from septic systems first-hand and to urge action to limit pollution from future septic systems, even as Maryland works to correct its past problems.
Governor O'Malley said, "The pollution in Lake Bonnie is an unfortunate product of our failure to address one of the last remaining unmitigated causes of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. While failing septic systems threaten both public health and clean water, even a properly functioning septic system dumps nitrogen pollution into our waterways and the Bay – at a rate of about 10 times that of a household on a major sewage treatment plant."
"Preventing pollution before it starts doesn't just create a healthier Bay," continued Governor O'Malley. "It also saves the State and taxpayers' money, protects Maryland families, improves the value of our land, and protects our drinking water. We strongly support legislation to halt the further expansion of large housing developments on septics across our watershed and our remaining rural landscape."
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.
Failing septic systems can present an imminent threat to public health and to safe drinking water. There is potential for human contact with sewage through a system that directly discharges to the ground or to surface water, backs up into a building, or contaminates drinking water supplies, such as a home drinking well.
Acting MDE Secretary Robert M. Summers said, "The septics problem in Goldsboro, as in other small communities across Maryland, is costing the town and the State far too much. We need to invest more in pollution controls now and not pass these problems on to the next generation."
Goldsboro has suffered for more than a decade with failing septic systems, which have caused water contamination as well as financial and legal difficulties. Lake Bonnie was closed to swimming in 1996 by the County Health Department.
For more than a decade, the Maryland Department of the Environment has been working with Caroline County and Goldsboro on funding solution to connect Goldsboro's homes with failing septic systems to a modern sewage treatment plant. The recently established North County Regional Water and Sewer Authority plans to construct a new regional treatment plant in Greensboro with Enhanced Nutrient Removal technology capable of achieving 3 mg/l total nitrogen and 0.3 mg/l total phosphorus. The $25 million project would include constructing collection systems within the towns of Goldsboro, Henderson, Marydel, and Templeville with wastewater conveyed to the new ENR facility in Greensboro.
Governor O'Malley plans to testify in favor of the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2011 (HB 1107/SB 846) on Friday. As amended, the bill would:
* Allow new residential minor subdivisions (development on four or fewer new lots, five lots total) to use individual on-site septic systems if they use nitrogen removal technology;
* Prohibit new residential major subdivisions (five or more new lots) from using on-site septic systems - but has options: new residential major subdivisions (five or more new lots) can use shared or multi-use sewerage systems (above ground discharge) or connect to existing sewer; and
* As a proposed amendment to the bill, allow a farm family to create the individual four lots over time so they wouldn't have to subdivide all four at once.