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Posted at 6:09 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

O'Malley wades in polluted lake to 'make a point' on septic bill

By Aaron C. Davis

OMalley-Septic.jpg

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley waded into a remote Eastern Shore lake contaminated with fecal matter Wednesday to draw attention to his lagging legislation that would prohibit construction of most new septic systems across the state.

It was an unusual stunt for O'Malley, especially after all but conceding last week that the General Assembly would probably delay action and study his proposed ban until at least next year.

"This is a very difficult problem to ever draw a picture of or even to see; it's a tough one," O'Malley told a handful of Goldsboro residents and state workers as he donned chest-high waders and waddled toward the side of Lake Bonnie as a stiff wind pushed the temperature near freezing.

But pictures are exactly what the governor got. Several reporters, photographers and even a news helicopter hovered overhead as O'Malley stepped into the lake. "They're waiting to see if I slip and go under, then it would be 'News at 11,' " O'Malley quipped.

The governor said the lake -- closed to swimming since 1996 because of failing septic systems in the nearby town of Goldsboro, as well as animal and other bacterial contamination -- "offered a glimpse of what can happen in a much broader way to the waters of this whole bay."

The governor said that for all the gains in the past two decades in reducing other types of Chesapeake Bay pollution, addressing septic system contamination was one area in which "we are totally failing."

"It's time we address it, because the projections are that over the next 25 years, three-quarters of the new nitrogen load into the bay caused by sewage systems will come from septic systems, even though only about 20 percent of the new [homes] will be on septic systems," O'Malley said. "If we don't act now, the problem is going to become so immense that we'll never catch up."

O'Malley's bill calls for outlawing construction of new septic systems in developments with five or more homes, and requiring anyone building two or more homes to use more expensive technology to limit nitrogen emissions.

Republicans have blasted the proposal as an assault on rural homeowners, and many Democrats were also reluctant to support it.

In and around Goldsboro, the state wants to replace about 80 septic systems with a $25 million wastewater treatment plant. Most homes in the town are on small lots with inadequate space for septic systems, and the soil in the area has a high groundwater table. The lake is downstream of the town.

John Merson, a construction worker who purchased the 140-acre plot encompassing the lake in October and waded into alongside O'Malley, said he hoped that the state was serious about the cleanup, but was concerned about the costs.

"I'm asking the same questions you are: 'What's the cost and how are we going to pay for it,' " he said.

But Merson said he was willing to pay a share. "It's a beautiful property," he said. "I have an 8-year-old and a 13-year-old. I don't want to leave it for them like this."

O'Malley is scheduled to testify in favor of the legislation Friday.

Aides said it was his idea to wade into the lake.

One, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said whether or not the governor's bill passes as proposed this year or is amended to delay it for study, Wednesday's event was designed to show the governor is far from abandoning the idea. "Regardless of what version of the legislation passes, the governor wanted to demonstrate that he's serious about this."

By Aaron C. Davis  | March 9, 2011; 6:09 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis, General Assembly, Governor  
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Comments

a lake of fecal matter......a perfect analogy of maryland politics....and where the average taxpayer finds themselves!

Posted by: OldSalt8 | March 9, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

No matter where you live, the New 2011 EPA mandates say that even a slow drain in your drain field or elevated Nitrate levels could require replacement of your entire system for $10,000 to $30,000 or move out of your home or business.

Septic System News - http://www.Twitter.com/MillerPlanteInc
UN Agenda 21 - http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/res_agenda21_18.shtml
Clean Water Act - http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/cwa/03.htm
EPA TMDL (Nitrate Limits) - http://www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl/
EPA Mandated Inspections - http://www.marex.uga.edu/advisory/cssmip.html

Posted by: miller1231 | March 9, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

People need to be responsible for their own poop. I support the Governor in his efforts to keep our cheaspeake bay clean for all of us and future generations.

If money is the issue, just legalize Marijuana and tax what would be a $40 billion dollar industry. let non-violent drug offenders out of jail. save our courts and police to fight real crime and we'd save billions.

More then enough to fund bay clean ups and many other projects.

Posted by: MarilynManson | March 10, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

What O'Malley isn't telling people is that even if his new construction septic ban is killed by the General Assembly, his administration has put into play with the federal EPA a plan to force owners of EXISTING homes to dig up their yards and install the nitrogen-reducing systems even if their exising septic systems are working perfectly!

This provision for existing homes near the water was included in the plan O'Malley sent to the EPA in December as part of the "total daily maximum load" plan to clean up the Bay. By its own admission, the state says this could cost $400 million!

The Cecil Times online newspaper reported on this and calcuated it could cost over $4 per flush, over a five year period, for some homes that are only occupied in the summer. This is a waste of taxpayers, and local residents', money. See the news article here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/02/omalley-to-shore-flush-you-or-the-4-per-flush-mandate/

Posted by: Laurel6 | March 10, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

What O'Malley isn't telling people is that even if his new construction septic ban is killed by the General Assembly, his administration has put into play with the federal EPA a plan to force owners of EXISTING homes to dig up their yards and install the nitrogen-reducing systems even if their exising septic systems are working perfectly!

This provision for existing homes near the water was included in the plan O'Malley sent to the EPA in December as part of the "total daily maximum load" plan to clean up the Bay. By its own admission, the state says this could cost $400 million!

The Cecil Times online newspaper reported on this and calcuated it could cost over $4 per flush, over a five year period, for some homes that are only occupied in the summer. This is a waste of taxpayers, and local residents', money. See the news article here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/02/omalley-to-shore-flush-you-or-the-4-per-flush-mandate/

Posted by: Laurel6 | March 10, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

The operative word in the article is FAILED septic systems. A properly working system would not cause a major problem. A FAILED septic system generally pours untreated sewerage onto the land surface and then the waste flows to a lake or stream. A proper working septic system percolates treated and clarified waste water into the ground where it is purified by the earth, soil and bacteria. Any system that is FAILED (transportation, air pollution, water pollution, land fill liner, etc.) will cause a problem. We do not ban pollution abatement practices because they occasionally FAIL, we fix the problem!! The septic ban proposal is like throwing the baby out with the bath water!!

Posted by: bergvh | March 10, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Lake? You call that a lake? what passes for a lake in Maryland is pathetic. Drainage Pond Bonnie would be more appropriate.

Posted by: fakeemail2 | March 10, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

He couldn't clean up the sewer called "Baltimore" so now he's going to clean up the rest of the state? Rrrrrrriiiiiiight!

Posted by: flintston | March 10, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

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