Despite Delay, Septic Bill Likely To Move Forward Next Week!

28 Feb
“Septic system bill delayed in Senate Rules Committee”
Originally published February 26, 2011

By Meg Tully
News-Post Staff

ANNAPOLIS — A Frederick County senator has delayed action on a proposed ban on septic systems, but the bill is likely to move forward next week.Sen. David Brinkley, a Republican who represents Frederick and Carroll counties, asked the Senate Rules Committee to hold off on moving the bill forward. He did so at the request of the Frederick County Builders Association, which opposes the bill.

It will come up again on Tuesday, and Brinkley predicts it will ultimately move out of the Rules Committee and come up for a hearing.

The bill, which is supported by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, would change the way development is shaped in the state. In an attempt to encourage development near public sewer lines, it would ban the use of septic systems in developments of five or more units.

“It is not in anyone’s interest to be building McMansion farms in areas without the infrastructure to support them, thus doing further damage to the (Chesapeake) Bay and its tributaries,” said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for O’Malley. “If the bay were to die, and the further proliferation of polluting septic systems were to do irreversible damage to its ecosystem, then that would do far more damage to the building industry than anyone is expecting from this bill.”

The proposal is opposed by the Frederick County Farm Bureau and the local builders association, which worry it could dramatically reduce the ability of rural landowners to develop their properties.

“I think it’s a bad bill,” Brinkley told members of the builders association at a Friday meeting. “I don’t want to see it go anywhere, and I think the more you keep working on it, (the better), particularly where it harms rural Maryland.”

Denise Jacoby, executive officer at the builders association, said the state should not approach the problems of pollution and sprawl with a one-size-fits-all attitude.

They hope the bill will be delayed so stakeholders can craft a compromise over the summer.

“It’s just important that all of the stakeholders get together to find a solution because we all want to do our part,” Jacoby said.

In the House of Delegates, Frederick Delegate Galen Clagett, a Democrat, signed a letter asking the chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee to reconsider the bill’s timing.

“As representatives of State government in suburban and rural communities in Maryland, we feel it is important to continue to support and encourage private sector investment in our areas of the State,” the letter states. “This is even more critical given the current economic climate, where the construction industry has been one of the hardest hit employment sectors of the economy.”

Clagett described the group of delegates as Blue Dog Democrats for their more conservative views. They include delegates John L. Bohanan Jr., Norman Conway, Steven J. DeBoy Sr., Mary-Dulany James, Sally Jameson and David Rudolph.

Clagett said he believes the bill would end up just calling for a study of the pollution problem in the Chesapeake Bay in order to investigate the septic systems’ impact.

“The main thing is to find out the extent of the problem,” Clagett said.

Adamec said the governor was open to the concerns of those involved and was willing to consider changes to his legislation.

“The governor is supportive of the legislation as is,” Adamec said. “Of course, he’s always willing to discuss and consider ways to make the bill a better bill.”

The lone Frederick County lawmaker in favor of the bill is Sen. Ron Young. A Democrat, he is urging builders and others to realize that the state must address the problem.

Septic systems filter out much less pollutants, such as nitrogen, than public sewer systems do. Those pollutants eventually enter the Chesapeake Bay.

“It isn’t hard to figure out what we’re fixing,” Young said. “What it’s causing is a serious problem. As I said, it’s going to be addressed at some point, so let’s address this the right way.”


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