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As Long as We Remember...

June 5, 2012

What’s the real purpose?

Farrell Keough

As the septic bill passed in Annapolis, it seems to be a done deal – yet people are still writing letters to the editor and discussing the repercussions. Might it be that, like the computer (IT) tax bill, this could be rescinded due to its negative effects? While doubtful, let’s consider some aspects about this bill.


First off, this bill was considered to be “watered down” by many in the legislature, due in no small part to the influence of the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition. In short, final decisions about the use of these systems is left to the counties, although the state can still manipulate funding if they so desire.


Secondly, the bill lays out a four Tier determination as to the use of septic systems.


·        Tier-One areas are served by local water and sewer systems and where growth is essentially maxed out.


·        Tier-Two areas are planned growth areas where water and sewer will be extended from existing municipal water systems.


·        Tier-Three is a mix of areas that allow septic use and also prohibit major subdivisions on septic in designated areas.


·        Tier-Four is designated as protected forest lands under the bill.


So, why all the controversy?


As noted previously, the original Chesapeake Bay Model had such flawed septic data that it was deemed unacceptable and had to be revisited. To mitigate this known problem, it was decided to acquire “state derived data” to fill in these holes. Therein lies a serious problem – there is no definition of what “state derived data” means, nor any mechanism to substantiate this information.


Hence, the influence of septic systems on our waterways ranges from 1.4% to 6% to higher. While these numbers are thrown around as fact, truth be told, their basis is neither scientific nor accurately interpolated; they are simply numbers applied to justify these new rules. But, for the sake of argument, let’s take the Maryland Department of the Environment number of 4% and determine if these new laws will accomplish their ends.


These expensive new systems supposedly clean up to 50% of the nitrogen. Thus, 2% of the influence now has a sizeable additional cost. But that cost is not limited to properties adjacent to bodies of water; it can be applied statewide. In other words, even rural properties like Frederick are “encouraged,” (the state may still withhold our own tax dollars) to comply – yet their influence is virtually nonexistent.


But, even by the most rigorous standards, property rights are being negatively affected for a mere 2% return – yet the remaining 98% will go undeterred. What could possibly justify such an action with so little return on investment?


The answer is incredibly simple. This is not about the Chesapeake Bay. This is about both state powers over zoning and forcing people to move to urban areas which are losing populations.


So, why is this important since it has already passed the General Assembly?


As noted by some in the legislature, this is a first step – translated, that means that further restrictions and regulations are in the offing. We need to be vigilant and support groups like Maryland Rural Counties Coalition to ensure these pointless actions are not implemented. It is only through wise government coupled with citizen involvement that we can deal with the Bay and still keep our liberties.


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