Clarifying the facts on the SKI sewer
We read with interest the two page “Open Letter” from Queen Anne’s Conservation Association Executive Director Jay Falstad in the Bay Times and the Record Observer regarding the Southern Kent Island Sanitary Project and Four Seasons. As Four Seasons is a matter of litigation as opposed to legislation, it is currently in the courts and does not require commissioner action; we will withhold comment regarding Four Seasons and focus instead on QACA’s SKI commentary.
While that Open Letter is based more on speculation than fact, we were happy to see that QACA has finally acknowledged there are valid reasons for providing sewer. This in itself is progress for as recently as June 2014, in a paper entitled QACA A Working Paper on SKI Sewer, which can be found on their website, they were recommending that residents be educated to avoid contact with contaminated surface waters to reduce health risks. While we suppose this is good advice for those traveling to a third world country, we feel our citizens deserve much better than this. We would like to offer clarity on a number of issues discussed in the letter, specifically:
Project Cost — it is correct that the construction bids have come in over the estimated budget. It is a complex project that will involve the contractor doing work on all 775 existing home lots in Kent Island Estates and Romancoke (Phase I). It will be time consuming, costly and honestly an inconvenience to the homeowners during construction. We know that and that is one of the reasons we have committed to keeping the cost of the project to homeowners at $100 per month for 20 years. This is a commitment we will not break and are working with the State and our staff to accomplish and we are confident we will.
Sewer System Alternatives — 80 percent of the homes in the nine communities that comprise the SKI service area: Romancoke, Kent Island Estates, Tower Gardens, Queen Anne Colony, Kentmorr, Sunny Isle of Kent,
Normans, Matapeake Estates and Chesapeake Estates have failing septic systems due to three factors, 1) seasonal high ground water; 2) small lot sizes that prevent replacement drain fields to be installed; and 3) poorly drained soils. These three factors prevent theoretical alternative systems from being practical alternatives; they simply do not work in SKI, nor will they as long as these factors remain. The Septic Tank Effluent Pump system that the county is utilizing pumps the effluent to the Kent Island Enhanced Nitrogen Removal (ENR) treatment plant where it is effectively treated to Maryland Department of the Environment’s high standards.
Use of Bay Restoration Funds — Bay Restoration Funds are collected by the state from every user served by a waste water treatment plant or septic system in Maryland. The
fees are $5 per month, and the funds are distributed between waste water treatment plant upgrades, septic system upgrades and cover crop programs.The BRF funds proposed to be used in SKI will be for existing homes only and will offset the cost to these homeowners by $10,000. State law prohibits the use of BRF funds to be used for new development.
Use of Public Tax Dollars as a Guarantee to Support Private Land Deals — Through legally required lot consolidations and mergers, limiting vacant lots to be served to those that front on roads designated to get sewer and eliminating large tracts of lots that have “paper streets” only, the County successfully reduced the number of vacant lots to be served from over 1600 to 632. These vacant lots that are now buildable will not receive the $10,000 BRF grants, and the owners that decide to build will be required to pay an estimated $25,600 or greater Economic Benefit Premium (EBP), $7,750 allocation fee
plus the cost to install the STEP system. Paying these costs, not public tax dollars, “guarantee” the right to build on these lots.
We cannot continue to let the failing septic systems in the SKI Communities deteriorate further. This is a 30-year-old problem that must be addressed now. Public health emphasizes prevention over treatment and pumping septic effluent to an MDE regulated ENR treatment plant is an incredibly more efficient and safe way to treat waste than septic systems. The Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Department of Planning, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Queen Anne’s County Health Department, numerous independent experts and now even Queen Anne’s Conservation agree we have a problem. You have our vote to fix it.
Mark A. Anderson represents District 4 and is president of the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners. James J. Moran is the atlarge member of the Board of County Commissioners.