Have you ever heard of Resolution 175? If you live along the Rt. 33 corridor, listen up as the lame duck county council may soon change it.
For decades the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has been monitoring the shellfish (oysters and clams) waters of the state for the presence of Escherichia coliform bacteria. E. coli is considered an indicator species perhaps signaling the presence of other harmful bacteria that would make shellfish unfit for human consumption. Back in the late 1980’s, the MDE correctly surmised that nearby failing septic systems were polluting the shellfish waters of Oak Creek. To make a long story short, a sewer line was run from the St. Michaels wastewater plant to Royal Oak, Newcomb and Bellevue. It was a success.
A few years later, another line was run from the Royal Oak pumping station to Unionville, Tunis Mills and Leeds Landing in order to hopefully lower the high levels of E. coli in the upper Miles River. Both lines were put in for one purpose only-to prevent existing failing septic systems from contaminating our rivers with raw sewage.
During the public hearings for both projects, the public was repeatedly assured by state and local officials, both orally and in writing, that these sewer lines could not be used to foster growth. The projects were +90% funded with state and federal funds. Only existing homes and existing unimproved lots in the named villages would be given access to the lines. The only exception was to be existing homes or businesses along the lines with failing septic systems and no alternatives for wastewater treatment. Unfortunately, all these public promises were never codified locally.
Since the day the lines became operational, unauthorized persons have tried to gain access to these sewer lines. For many years the county tried to deal with such applications on an ad hoc basis. This routinely resulted in robust brouhahas before the planning commission and county council. Finally, in 2010 Resolution 175 was unanimously passed by the county council (both introduced and voted for by Mr. Pack) after public hearings and thorough review by both the public works advisory board and a unanimous recommendation by the planning commission.
Now it appears the lame duck county council wants to poke holes in Resolution 175 and run a spur sewer line along Rt. 33 to its new recycling center. This is clearly counter to the existing governing resolution and the intended purpose of the Unionville sewer line, which according to the state is a “denied access” line. I have ample documentation to support all of the assertions made in this letter.
Rather than weaken Resolution 175, the council should strengthen it by making it the policy for all the county’s sewer lines in western Talbot County. It should be incorporated into both the County Comprehensive Plan and the County Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan where it cannot be forgotten. Region 5 (Tilghman) and Region 2 (St. Michaels) wastewater plant capacity should be preserved to pick up scores of existing marginal or failing septic systems in western Talbot County.
The public should be aware that this is a decades old issue. Revising Resolution 175 and permitting a spur off the existing Unionville sewer line on an ad hoc basis will open a now sealed can of worms. Allowing sewer taps on an ad hoc basis will stimulate speculative development that would not otherwise occur due to the lack of permeable soils in western Talbot County. In time, this will negatively affect what remains of the rural character of western Talbot County and your quality of life.
Thomas Hughes (former chairman of the Talbot County Planning Commission)