BERLIN- Worcester County and the Lower Eastern Shore will be represented on Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s task force to study septic system pollution and its impact on the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays, the roster of which was announced this week.
Shortly after the Maryland General Assembly session ended in April, O’Malley announced the formation of a task force to study the impact of septic system pollution on the state’s imperiled waterways. During the 2011, O’Malley introduced legislation that would ban the use of on-site septic systems in new development in critical areas around the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays watershed.
The legislation drew the ire of lawmakers from rural areas all over the Eastern Shore including Worcester and Wicomico, who perceived the bill as a means to wrest land use and management decisions away from the local jurisdictions that best understood their areas and had already implemented their own strict laws on the proliferation of septic systems. Others claimed the proposed ban on septic systems for new developments diminished property values because of the lack of public sewer systems in many rural areas. The governor’s bill was eventually withdrawn with the promise it would be reintroduced after more careful study. To that end, the governor has formed a task force to study the septic system issue that included a broad cross-section of representatives from business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy and local government to study the impact on septic systems and the extent to which they contribute to the pollution of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays.
Worcester is well represented on the panel, with County Commissioner Madison “Jimmy” Bunting at the table, along with Robert Mitchell, Environmental Programs Director for Worcester County and Jim Rapp, executive director of Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE). Delegate Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, will lead the task force, which also includes several state cabinet members including the Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources and the Critical Areas Commission. O’Malley laid out the objectives for the task force this week, which are due to be in front of the governor by December 1.
“I am charging this task force with examining this issue in greater depth and we look forward to its conclusions,” he said. “We must continue the progress we are making toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways. This effort is not about stopping growth, it is about stemming the tide of major housing developments built on septic systems.”