- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I am writing in response to Maryland State Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr.’s (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) letter to the editor in the Feb. 20 edition of The Calvert Recorder, “Lawmakers will keep working to improve environment.”
Sen. Miller tells us that “the Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports a 14 percent increase in the bay’s health since 2008.” He attributes this increase to “reduced runoff by providing grants to owners of wastewater treatment plants to assist them in reducing nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. We also reduced nutrient pollutants by reducing the number of septic systems in the state and taking steps to avoid sprawl.”
The truth is that there have been literally thousands of spills of raw sewage from wastewater treatment plants into the tidal waters since 2008, including some very large ones. While improving sewer treatment plants to Enhanced Nutrient Removal (or ENR) standards is a good thing (and very expensive, costing millions of taxpayer dollars), those benefits have not been on line long enough to see their full effects, nor are the benefits comprehensive enough to overcome the damage from the sewage spills. Plan Maryland and the Sustainable Growth and Agriculture Protection Act of 2012 (also known as the septic bill or the Tier Act) have not yet begun to eliminate septic systems or reduce sprawl. The numbers of septic systems being upgraded to nitrogen-removing septic systems is an insignificant number of septics to generate a noticeable reduction in the total of less than 2 percent of bay pollution attributable to septic systems.
So, saying that the 14 percent increase in bay health reported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is due to onerous and expensive land use laws that have not yet taken effect is a fable.
Is it possible that we were on the right track to reduce bay pollution before our local land use laws were usurped by the state and before the state interfered in the private property rights of farmers and landowners in Tier IV? Saving the bay has become the mantra for changes in where and how we live in Maryland, social engineering that has little or no real effect on the Chesapeake Bay in real life. Meanwhile, I wonder what really did contribute to that purported 14 percent increase? The $41.5 million spent on cover crops in Maryland along with the many other initiatives that farmers have undertaken to preserve our environment? Effects of the federal Clean Air Act on pollutants coming via prevailing winds from Midwest factories to be deposited in the bay? Those would be answers worth knowing.
Susan Shaw (R), Huntingtown
The writer is a Calvert County commissioner.