March 20, 2011

Legislation centered around septic tanks is another example of Annapolis putting emotions ahead of science in lawmaking

Pets and Politics

The pending legislation centered around septic tanks is another example of Annapolis putting emotions ahead of science in lawmaking.

To listen to Governor O’Malley and his supporters in the Maryland General assembly, one would think that septic tanks are the major contributor to Bay pollution. They have consistently ignored actual data from the Maryland Department of the Environment concerning the cause of over-nutrification (pollution) of the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2005, as a Trustee of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, I explained in a letter to Ms. Kim Coble of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment, close to 700 million gallons of raw or minimally treated sewage was dumped into Maryland waterways in 2004 and over 400 million gallons in 2005. I also indicated in that letter that the Maryland Department of the Environment has been aware of this situation, and in 1995 cautioned that antiquated and poorly maintained sewage treatment plants were a major cause of Bay pollution.

While the situation is improving, unfortunatley this trend continues to today, with sewage treatment facility malfunctions being the major source of pollution to the Bay.

The recent numbers for sewage spills due to malfunctioning treatment plants are: 20 million gallons in 2008, 98 million gallons in 2009, and 97 million gallons in 2010.

According to the Patuxent Riverkeeper, the Dorsey Run Waste Water Treatment Plant in Anne Arundel County (just one example) had 24 violations between 2005 and 2010. Records show that, between July 2003 and June 2009, problems at this facility and in the sewer pipes leading to it caused sewage spills totaling about 2.2 million gallons of raw sewage. A further 11 million gallons of partially treated sewage were discharged when the plant failed in October 2007. According to the Riverkeeper, “there are a potpourri of buggy, outmoded and troubled industrial facilities and wastewater plants that exist by virtue of state-issued permits that are regularly violated and that the State rarely enforces."

It is up to all of us to insure that our waterways are kept clean and free of contaminates, including sewage.

We can do this by insisting that our elected officials from both parties promote legislation based in fact and on science instead of popular opinion.

Blaming those folks with septic tanks is not only wrong but indefensable.

Dr. Jim Pelura is a practicing veterinarian in Maryland and former Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

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