March 11, 2011

Blog: O’Malley continues to press for septic system restrictions

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Gov. Martin O’Malley continues to press for septic system restrictions, despite continuing opposition from rural areas and the suggestion from the House committee chair that he first create a task force to study the idea.

O’Malley personally testified on his bill to House and Senate committees Friday, and he has already suggested amendments to the legislation to make it more palatable to the farm community.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, left, mucks it up in a Goldsboro pond March 9.

The measure prevents the spread of septic systems by banning them in subdivisions of five or more houses. As a concession to farmers, an amendment to the bill would allow farmers to create the four individual lots over time so they wouldn’t have to subdivide all four at once.

To illustrate the problem, on Wednesday O’Malley waded into a pond in Goldsboro which has been polluted by leaking septic systems.

O’Malley insisted that while progress is paying made on upgrading sewage systems and reducing polluted runoff from stormwater and farms, Bay pollution from septic systems “continues to go off the chart.”

Asked about the Feb. 28 letter from House Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh suggesting more study, O’Malley told MarylandReporter.com, “I don’t think you can conclude from one letter” that McIntosh opposed the bill, and he thought the letter was taken out of context.

“It’s an important issue,” O’Malley said. “We need to tackle it together.”

He noted that “there was a time when no one talked about stormwater runoff,” upgrading sewage systems, or the need for cover crops to prevent runoff of farm fertilizer.

This the fourth bill on which O’Malley has personally testified this year, appearing  in both House and Senate committees on three of them, an unusually high number in just a few weeks.

Asked why he was being so personally visible, O’Malley jokingly blamed “bad planning” and “new staff” who are just learning their jobs, pointing to communications director Rick Abbruzzese.

Abbruzzese said, “It’s a new strategy by Joe Bryce,” the governor’s chief lobbyist who typically testifies on many administration bills.

—Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com