Readers Respond

Carroll commissioner: MDE is cooking the books on septics

A recent article by Tim Wheeler ("Septic task force produces 'roadmap' for MD growth," Nov. 23) perpetuates a false narrative regarding septic systems that the state is using as an excuse to arrest property rights and local autonomy in rural counties.

The article states: "Per household, officials say, septic systems release far more nitrogen into ground water and nearby streams than do properly functioning wastewater treatment plants."


PlanMaryland, the new statewide planning document that Gov. Martin O'Malley may soon sign without legislative input, makes the same claim.

We recently concluded a day-long forum, PlanMaryland: at the Crossroads, wherein we proved these claims are utterly false. It appears the Maryland Department of Planning "cooked the books" to justify their urban growth schemes which they deem "socially equitable" and "sustainable."


They claim on a per-household basis, suburban septic systems release "ten times" more nitrogen to the bay than urban wastewater treatment plants. To reach this number, they include estimates of lawn fertilizer per household and compare old septic technology to the most advanced treatment plants. When adjusted for these factors, septics and sewers are virtually identical.

During our forum, an internationally-renowned wastewater expert quipped that the state wants us to believe "people who live on two acres poop more than people who live in apartments." He added that "What we're dealing with are assumptions, and not calculations that are based on any research of the data."

Maryland's contribution of septic-source nitrogen entering the bay is less than 1.4 percent of total nitrogen from all sources. PlanMaryland deceptively imputes to Maryland the amounts from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. Using their inflated measures, septics still only contribute a modest 4 percent of the total. Yet they argue in the future, septics will contribute 76 percent of all new nitrogen.

It is apparent their real goal is to take property rights from farmers and place land-use decisions in the hands of a centralized land-use commission.

This is accomplished by imposing draconian regulatory requirements based on wildly inflated data in an attempt to manufacture a crisis. They disparage suburban and rural growth while exaggerating benefits of urban development and mass transit.

The article promotes this narrative, making a derogatory reference to suburban and rural land-use as a "metastasis of sprawl."

State government has engaged in distortion to justify its centralized planning mandates that will impinge upon constitutional rights and cost Marylanders billions of dollars.

There's a saying, "Crisis is the playground of tyrants," and so it goes with PlanMaryland.


Richard Rothschild, Westminster

The writer, a Republican, is a Carroll County commissioner.