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The Mountain Christian Church proposal for a new sewage treatment plant offers the opportunity for some real political leadership. The church itself has taken the stance that is commendable, in that it states it is willing to listen to community input, without trying to stir up animosity with the downriver community. The church basically says it will do whatever the state Department of Environmental says it must do.

However, anyone concerned with the health of the Gunpowder River system knows this does not go far enough. State rules require MDE to enforce state laws, which are not in keeping with the new technologies available. Thus, MDE has limits on what it can require. Further, both MDE and the church have a credibility problem in that there have been repeated failures of the current system, but these were not reported to the public and no fines were levied for these failures.

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Thus, it could be argued that the church and MDE need to cooperate to go above and beyond their self-imposed limitations.

County leaders, from both Harford and Baltimore counties, have the responsibility to “step up” and show real leadership. They can ask that all discharges remain on church property. This may cost a little more, though certainly not an excessive amount more as the only changes would be on the very back end of the proposed system … basically a few more pipes and tanks. If this does cost a little more, the county(ies) could use their economic development funds to help with these additional costs.

Until now, Harford County has taken a position that development should be given priority over the health of its waters, including the Little Gunpowder, the Gunpowder system and the Chesapeake Bay. The county has reduced stream set back requirements. They have weakened the definition of wetlands. They have repeatedly granted zoning and environmental exceptions to developers. This, however, is short-sighted.

Instead, the county should set environmental standards that are exemplary. Then, they should use there economic development funds to help developers meet those standards. Instead of racing to the bottom of environmental stewardship, they should race to the top.

Mr. Glassman as the County Executive, Mr. Vincenti, in his role as head of Public Safety, and Councilmen Woods and Johnson with districts along the river should all be involved in this new style of leadership. Leadership from Baltimore County should be easy to identify, as many have already spoken up for just this type of action.

The Mountain Christian Church proposal represents an opportunity to begin a new path for this type of environmental stewardship and economic development.

BILL TEMMINK

Joppa

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