Good News; Bad News

from the Southern Maryland newspapers on line:

 Fee hike proposed for those on septic tanks

Money would upgrade state’s sewer plants

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If you flush a toilet in the state of Maryland, you are supposed to be paying a fee to do so.

Those on public sewer pay $2.50 a month, or $30 a year, to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Those on their own septic systems pay $30 a year on their property taxes.

A workgroup of a state task force on sustainable growth and wastewater disposal has recommended the septic system annual fee be increased to $60 next year and to $90 by 2015. Sixty percent of people in St. Mary’s County use septic tanks.

There are 420,000 septic systems in the state, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Most of this “flush tax” money helps pay to upgrade sewer plants and replace failing septic systems.

The proposed hike in fees “would be used to address the remainder” of sewer plants “that haven’t been done yet,” said Jay Apperson, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

By the end of September 2010, the monthly sewer plant fee had raised $297 million to be distributed to the state’s 67 sewer plants that discharge into the bay’s tributaries.

The current fee will fall $530 million short of the $1.5 billion it will take to upgrade all of the plants, according to the latest report by the bay restoration fund advisory committee.

Now the focus is on increasing the yearly fee on septic systems. “The word on the street that we’re hearing is perhaps doubled or tripled,” said Jacquelyn Meiser, director of the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission.

Commission President Jack Russell (D) said he heard about the recommendation to increase that fee, but said, “All this stuff is so very vague.”

“The task force will eventually vote on the recommendations it will send to the governor,” Apperson said, by Dec. 1.

In St. Mary’s County, the design to upgrade the treatment process at the Marlay-Taylor Water Reclamation Facility in Lexington Park is 65 percent completed, Meiser told the county commissioners Tuesday.

Construction could begin by next summer and would take two years. The cost estimate is $35.5 million, covered by the Navy paying $7.1 million, a loan of $16.8 million from the Maryland Department of the Environment and $11.6 million from the bay restoration fee.

By getting the design in earlier than other sewer plants in the state, that bay restoration money should be secured easily, said Joe St. Clair, chairman of the MetCom board.

The Marlay-Taylor plant collects and treats sewage from Lexington Park, California, Great Mills, Piney Point, St. George Island, St. Mary’s City and Callaway, serving more than 37,000 people.

A state report in January said 16 plants in Maryland have already upgraded the treatment process from biological nutrient removal to enhanced nutrient removal. That is the upgrade planned for the Marlay-Taylor plant.

Nitrogen and phosphorus enter the Chesapeake Bay from three primary sources sewer plants and urban and agricultural runoff.

Nitrogen and phosphorus fuel algae blooms in the water, which decay. The bacteria breaking down the algae deprive the water of oxygen for other marine life.

While Marlay-Taylor will be upgraded, its capacity won’t be expanded. The plant can handle 6 million gallons of sewage a day, or 24,000 sewer hookups. One hookup is expected to produce 250 gallons a day, which is the statewide standard, Meiser said.

The rate of growth in St. Mary’s has slowed in recent years and some hookups previously allocated for future development have been relinquished, said David Chapman, planner with the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management.

“For the short term, we don’t see a heavy demand for allocation,” he said. There are 1,700 hookups remaining at Marlay-Taylor.

jbabcock@somdnews.com

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 50 years. Former President (1995 to 2016) of Island Resources Foundation.
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