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Environment

Maryland AG files suit against St. Mary’s sewer authority over continued spills; one sickened oyster eaters in Virginia last year

The Maryland Attorney General’s office filed suit Thursday against the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission — the county’s sewer authority — over continued sewage spills, requesting a financial penalty and a court order requiring sewer system upgrades.

“We have charged MetCom with multiple violations of the most fundamental laws that protect public health and the environment,” Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement. “Releasing raw sewage could not be more dangerous. We will hold them accountable.”

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Last year, one sewage spill in the county contaminated oysters harvested from the St. Mary’s River, which then sickened at least two dozen consumers. The sewer commission, called MetCom and notified the public shortly after the 25,000-gallon spill, but the Maryland Department of the Environment did not close the river to harvesters until after the illnesses were reported, citing an internal miscommunication.

The spills have been a continuing problem from 2017 to the present, according to the complaint filed by Frosh’s office Thursday on behalf of the Department of the Environment.

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In January, the state agency fined MetCom $17,971 for about 50 sewage overflow events that occurred from 2017 to early 2022. More than 2 million gallons of waste were spilled in St. Mary’s County in that five-year period.

After the fine, the spills have continued, according to the new filing from Frosh’s office. In 2022, there were spills in January, March, July, August and October, which collectively spewed more than 50,000 gallons of waste into the environment.

MetCom, which operates and maintains the county’s water and wastewater system, including the pipe network that transports sewage to wastewater treatment plants, did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.

The attorney general’s office is seeking a civil penalty in the St. Mary’s County Circuit Court, in addition to a court order requiring MetCom to halt the discharges by remediating the problems with its sewer system.

The penalty could be a maximum of $10,000 per day of violations. Nine days of violations were cited by the office.


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