Cecil County Faces Costly Bay Cleanup; Septic Users May Have to Dig Up Tanks for $20K Systems

October 4, 2011

The bad news just keeps getting worse for Cecil County on costly sewage and environmental problems.

Scott Flanigan, the county’s Director of Public Works and a professional engineer, delivered the latest bad news to the County Commissioners at a worksession Tuesday. In order to meet state mandates—as part of a federal requirement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay—Cecil County will likely have to impose new rules on old and new septic systems and pay costs for extension of sewer services into more populated areas that are currently not served by county or municipal sewer systems.

Cecil County must draft a “watershed implementation plan” (WIP) to reduce water pollution and submit it to the state in the next few months, but County Commissioners will have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks— something that the current Board of Commissioners has not shown itself to be able to do without multiple delays and much hemming and hawing on a variety of issues.

Flanigan said that the county “might have to make it mandatory” to force existing homeowners in the “critical area” to spend $15,000 to $20,000 to upgrade their septic systems to so-called “highest available technology” septic systems that remove nitrogen from flows. Forcing such mandates on waterfront homeowners generates the most “bang for the buck,” he said, in reducing pollution. (The “critical area” includes property within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay or waterways that feed into the Bay.)

He added that the county might also mandate new developments using septic systems to install nitrogen-curbing systems from the outset.

Statewide, a potential mandate for upgrading existing septic systems in the Critical Areas alone could cost nearly $400 million from 2012 through 2017 for upgrades of just 27,552 existing properties– even if these homes have perfectly functioning non-nitrogen cutting septic systems, according to provisions buried in the state’s December, 2010 “pollution diet” submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

[See previous Cecil Times Special Report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/02/omalley-to-shore-flush-you-or-the-4-per-flush-mandate/ ]
Cecil Times reported that such a mandate, especially for seasonal residences occupied only a few months of the year in southern Cecil County’s waterfront areas, could amount to costs of over $4 per toilet flush over a five-year period.

The WIP mandates, coupled with pending “Plan Maryland” mandates that could impose state limits on future Cecil County economic development and growth even in the designated I95/Route 40 business growth corridor, could all but shut down economic development in Cecil County.

But some Commissioners seemed to be less than alarmed. Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) said Tuesday that “the county has to take the lead on this” and promote environmentally responsible standards especially for any new developments. “We have to provide the standards,” she said, because developers always want to do the “cheapest” things possible.

The seriousness of the problems, and the potential costs to Cecil County citizens, are exacerbated by the recent decision by a majority of the county commissioners—led by Broomell—to “mutually terminate” or kill the sale of four sewage treatment plants to the private Artesian Resources. As a result of that action, the county could be responsible for over $16 million in costs, including up to $10.1 million in upgrades to facilities and $6 million in bond indebtedness for past upgrades.

Furthermore, the private Artesian would have paid the costs of extending sewage services into the growth corridor but now that the deal is dead, any extension of sewer services—even just to comply with the WIP rules—would have to be borne by the county and citizens served by such facilities.

Flanigan said that sewage and septic issues are not the full extent of the problem. Many existing communities, especially those built before 1984 stormwater runoff rules took effect, will have to be upgraded at significant costs, such as purchase of land and easements to install runoff water retention ponds.

At this point, there are no overall cost estimates of the needed steps to comply with the WIP and other mandates, Flanigan said. County staff, as well as an advisory panel including homebuilders and other ‘stakeholders,’ will draft a proposed plan to present to the county commissioners at their 10/18 worksession.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to Cecil County Faces Costly Bay Cleanup; Septic Users May Have to Dig Up Tanks for $20K Systems

  1. Ed Burke on October 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    That stampede sound you hear will be residents leaving Cecil County for Delaware and Pennsylvania. Thanks SMIPKIN 3 Amigos.

  2. Tom Kenny on October 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks primarily to the efforts of Ms. Broomell, [who] is clearly not interested in the greater good of the county, the taxpayers of Cecil County will now have to pay for the upgrades to the aging infrastructure of the county. Had she not sabotaged the deal with Artesian Water, that cost would have been absorbed by Artesian as part of the deal. Thank you, Ms. Broomell, for being a selfish, self-centered, un-trustworthy, “public servant.” This is only the begining of what will prove to be a disaster for the citizens of Cecil County.

    • Ken Jenkins on November 3, 2011 at 9:03 am

      Let us not conveniently forget that Commissioner Broomell, or any other commissioner was not a party to the law suit filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation against the EPA for not enforcing the Clean Water Act as required many years ago, and forcing six states and multiple municipalities to clean up their act,includimg Cecil County, Md.
      Looks like these six states may be paying for the sins of the past that went largely unregulated by the farm lobby and influential developers.
      Given it’s past history on code enforcement, I certainly hope we will not be depending on the CCDPW to dig us out of this hole they helped put us in.
      Be careful, as a former CCDPW employee I know the facts. You are just playing politics, and poorly, I might add.
      If you seriously want to play politics, give Obama a call and ask him for an earmark for the costs of cleaning up the bay.
      I’m sure you can get his ear.

  3. R Baker on October 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    As usual, the costs end up being put on the non-polluters. If there are septic tanks that are leaking, require that they be replaced with new systems; that would fix the “septic” problem. Of course, that would still leave the millions of gallons of sewage dumped into the bay by sewage treatment plants, but that is OK as most of them are Government owned. Wonder how Artesian “knew” to get out of the sewage side of the deal?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Fine Maryland Wines
Proudly made in Cecil County