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Washington Co. lawmakers briefed on proposal to cut bay pollution

February 08, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Washington County lawmakers were briefed Wednesday on a plan to lessen nutrient discharges to the Chesapeake Bay.

The targeted reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus discharges and sediments is expected to cost the county $1.1 billion through 2025, which is the date suggested by the Maryland Department of Environment for meeting the reduced levels.

The nutrient reduction target amounts are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Washington County delegation meeting was attended by Robert Summers, secretary of the Maryland Department of Environment, Greg Murray, the county administrator, and Julie Pippel, director of Washington County’s Division of Environmental Management.

County officials asked the delegation to keep an eye on a slew of environment-related bills, some of which may affect or alter the requirements set by the MDE.

“That’s where you can help … when it comes up before you,” Murray said at the meeting.

A county team made up of local stakeholders — county and municipal government and government agencies among others — had suggested that the county find new and alternative ways to reduce the discharges while working together with the state’s Department of Environment to address concerns.

Pippel said at the meeting that the county was looking at alternatives to achieve the reductions and possibly reduce the costs.

Reducing discharges would entail managing stormwater and wastewater and also upgrading about 60 percent of the approximately 20,000 septic tanks in the county, according Pippel.

The Washington County Health Department changed its policies January 1, 2013, so that new septic systems are equipped to discharge less nitrogen while repairs to existing septic systems must include upgrades only when land or soil conditions are inadequate for retrofitting a septic system in case of a failure.

“We need to be on a good path forward to 2025,” said Summers at the meeting.

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Editor's note: This story was edited Feb. 8, 2013, to reflect the policies of the Washington County Health Department regarding septic systems being changed and who would be affected.

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