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Mar 8, 2011 Local News
ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Martin O'Malley has encountered opposition from both parties in his push to require high-end septic systems for new developments, but he's drafted a compromise to salvage the bill and even plans to wade into a polluted lake midweek to draw attention to the issue.

O'Malley's plan to require new developments in rural Maryland to install top-grade septics systems hit a bump last week after rural lawmakers protested and a House leader suggested studying the issue for a year before passing any legislation. While the measure is targeted largely at developers, who rely on septic systems which leach nitrogen into the Chesapeake Bay, it also would limit how farmers peel off parcels of their land.

The septics bill would only allow farmers to divide their land into parcels once -- a measure environmentalists say is designed to keep developers from skirting septic requirements by getting farmers to gradually sell them land over time.

However, amendments crafted by the governor would allow farmers to split their land four times, but only for family members, not for sale to developers. It would also allow farmers to divide their land for other, non-residential means, like building a winery or dairy operation.

A document outlining the amendments was obtained by The Associated Press.

O'Malley met for more than an hour Thursday morning with farmers, farm credit analysts and Agriculture Secretary Earl "Buddy" Hance.

The governor distributed copies of the amendments to the group and told them they would have much of the summer to talk about the issue, said Val Connelly, lobbyist for the Maryland Farm Bureau who attended the meeting.

"The impression the farm community got was we have time to discuss our concerns," she said.

O'Malley would like to see the bill passed this year, to start addressing nitrogen runoff into the Bay, but has always said he wants an open debate on the issue, said Hance.

"What matters is it's done right, not done quickly," Hance said.

House Environmental Matters Committee Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh told O'Malley last week she wants to send the bill to a summer study committee. While Republican lawmakers have largely lambasted the proposal, a group of rural Democrats also filed their concerns with McIntosh last month.


----sOME TIMES YA GET THE fEELING THAT OUR qUEST for clean water Quality is not shared by all in Maryland , I guess Money Rules the World -geo.
 

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Don't have an issue with the latest and greatest Septic system needing to be installed but….. as a large parcel land owner, I do take issue with the government telling me what I can and cannot do with my property I supposedly own. If they want to pay the mortgage and tax payments on the property then they can have their say. Otherwise, butt out.
 

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Hey Clyde, don't you think it's a benefit for the government to keep your farm acreage intact so they can extract a larger porting when it comes to inheritance tax time! It looks like they are covering every angle and spraying it with green perfume to make it smell nice.
 

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Don't have an issue with the latest and greatest Septic system needing to be installed but….. as a large parcel land owner, I do take issue with the government telling me what I can and cannot do with my property I supposedly own. If they want to pay the mortgage and tax payments on the property then they can have their say. Otherwise, butt out.
If what you do on your property only negligibly impacts others, I agree. But that's not what we're talking about with this bill. Also, the claims of reduced property values are highly suspect. Many areas with very strict development controls actually experience an increase in property values. There are no takings issues here.
 

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Interesting issue. When the first incarnation came out I thought it was a good idea. I spent the last 20 years in the development industry mainly in Harford County. Rural developments up here are on 2 to 10 acre lots, and the homes, well, lets just say I don't think they sell many under 4000sf. I submit that a family of 4 that is willing to throw down $1.2M on one of these homes can well afford to absorb the cost of on-site sewage treatment. Just sayin' ...
Pat in Joppa
 

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The cost is somewhat bigger - I know of several folks who have attempted to do the "right thing", laid down the money and have been utterly frustrated with frequent alarms, service visits, maintenance $$$ and system failures.

The technology still appears to be in it's "garage-band" phase.
 

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I know of several folks who have attempted to do the "right thing", laid down the money and have been utterly frustrated with frequent alarms, service visits, maintenance $$$ and system failures.
I know several too.

I considered it and am damn glad I decided not to be a guinea pig.
 

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O'Malley would like to see the bill passed this year, to start addressing nitrogen runoff into the Bay, but has always said he wants an open debate on the issue, said Hance.
......to start addressing........................what the!

I dont understand some of your responces as the real issues as I see it are reducing urban sprawl while not de-valuing farm land.

Many of us view the real problem to be storm water management...........not septics.
Also, nitrogen reducing septics may be part of the answer.....as it controls building density, recharges the ground water, it will never dump the entire system flow into the waterway, it is much cheaper to install, manage, and operate......much cheaper......etc.

People just dont get it!
 

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The folks I know who have had the nitrogen reducing systems have mostly positive reviews, but one person did have some initial trouble (a fan motor or somesuch thing). They are certainly more complex and, therefore, more prone to failure/maintenance than traditional systems. Some of them also remove less than half of the nitrogen from the effluent, depending on time of year. That is why they are only permitted, under the proposed legislation, for smaller developments.

However, these new systems still seem to beat the status quo. I commend folks who take the chance of switching over, and wish the state would continue -- and expand -- its subsidy for this until the technology becomes more established.
 

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Goose,

Your comments just like many articles the media feeds us fail to look at the whole picture.

While it is true that during the colder months many pretreatment tanks will struggle to perform at peak ability. That is not to say that better tanks might not have insulation or heaters to compensate for the outside temperature. The problem is the people at the State level dont have the ability or desire to tell the higher ups.

The major issue here........
A waste water treatment plant gets alot of dillution, uses a very large amount of electricity (how is this made....burning coal...which is a source of nitrogen), then it discharges the treated effluent into a waterway.
A pretreatment nitrogen reducing tank treats the water from a house and then discharges it into ground. Since it is difficult to assess what happens in the soil...the State gives no credit for soil treatment. The fact is under certain conditions.......all the nitrogen is converted to harmless nitrogen gas without any nitrates reaching the bay. Again, the State does not have the people able to educate the higher ups........or the lower downs for that matter......ie media, etc.

Another issue, is that most people on public sewer are also on public water. The water chemistry is very consistant and controlled. People on septics and usually on well water in which the water chemistry will vary widely.....with treatment, lack there of, and use such as laundry detergents, etc.

When it comes to technology.......there is nothing new going on here. The basics of these systems go back to the 1980's and have been used in many parts of the country but just lack the media exposure that we see now.
It is very simple water chemisty with all the work being done by aerobic bacteria and anaerobic bacteria........again is it very simple.

The difficult part........who are the experts on these issues?..............do the policy makers know who these people are?............are the policy makers listening to the wrong people?.............Why dont the policy makers know who to listen too.

Simple!
 

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Goose Let me give the Va. Govt. version of up grading septic, if you have a failing system then you get a repair permit for free, if you as a concerned citizen choose to replace an old system that is questionable then you get to pay a hefty permit fee. As usual the government is the problem and not the solution.
 

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Pax...........Give me some specifics and I will explain further......
So I know some detail of two of them.

The first is simpler - this is a neighbor's system, maybe three years old. I hear the alarm kicking off maybe 3 times a year. Sometimes for extended periods while the owner is away. I asked about it once, but the owner is not technically adept. They said they have to call a technician to come out and fix it when it fails.

The second one, the homeowner knows a bit more about. Their system is maybe 7 years old. The tank goes Anaerobic frequently and kicks off a foul odor that really stinks up the yard. Presumably, at that point the system is failing, and they call for help. They get alarms, and listen to a fan that runs seemingly all the time (to create an aerobic condition, I presume.)

This is a very green family, and they are frustrated with the constant failures of the system. They are trying to do the right thing as waterfront homeowners, but it appears that the systems are not ready for prime time.

So - I'm sure there are technical details behind each of these. The point however, is that the systems needs to be maintenance and worry free (silent would help too, I'm sure.) If that were the case, I think most folks would be willing to take advantage of flush tax funds, install the system and then pay for the electricity to keep it running effectively.
 

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Goose Let me give the Va. Govt. version of up grading septic, if you have a failing system then you get a repair permit for free, if you as a concerned citizen choose to replace an old system that is questionable then you get to pay a hefty permit fee. As usual the government is the problem and not the solution.
That does seem screwed up: reward the person who has no choice and discourage the person who has options from making the right choice?
 

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Pax,

You can equate these systems to automobile ownership. You can do preventive maintnance or you can wait until it breaks. Some models will require frequent attention while others will not need any attention.......but that is not to say that a little inspection from time to time is not needed......again kind of like with an auto.

With alarms.....is it the system or the user? Many alarms can be causes by excessive water use, bad plumbing, leaking tanks, or obviously a system problems. All these issues should be able to be solved with the proper attention.

Odors are very common at first but should go away once treatment is established. This is not to say that some systems may have treatment issues. First we might need to look at the homeowner, are they turning off the aeration, pouring chemicals down the drain, does the well water or water treatment backwash have issues that could be interfearing with treatment? Again, all these issues should be able to be solved with proper attention.
Also the odors can be addressed with the installation of charcoal filters, relocation the vent pipe or even eliminating the vent and directing the air back into the system.

Let me know if I can help further with any of these issues.

Mark
 

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Mark - These two systems I described are in Calvert County. Your description of the frequent alarms, maintenance and changes to methods of usage sounds defines the barriers to adoption pretty well.
 

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Pax,

These issues are not the norm. But if they are in Calvert County.....maybe the problem lies in the regulatory agency (Health Dept) to be able to better train installers, homeowners, and inspectors.

You might call these barrier but they are really the reality of life in the critical area if changes are going to happen with the bay's health.....along with storm water control, shoreline buffer, impervious surfaces, etc. If waterfront (critical area) landowners dont like it they should be free to move.......or they can understand what is needed to make a difference.
I think the saying is...."if your not part of the solution....you are part of the problem".
 

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Mark - Since it sounds like you're involved with the process, you know what I mean when I say that it's not as easy as that. There's plenty of us that want jump in and do the right thing.
 
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