BPW approves $33 million loan for SKI
ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Board of Public Works Wednesday, Nov. 2, approved a little more than $33 million from the state’s Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund to finance Phase one of the Southern Kent Island Sewer Project. It was a 2 to 1 vote with Gov. Larry Hogan and Treasurer Nancy Kopp for and Comptroller Peter Franchot against.
Representatives from Mar yland Department of the Environment introduced the request and briefly described the project, stating 80 percent of the septics on southern Kent Island are discharging pathogens, which are leaching into the ground water, endangering public health and
polluting the Chesapeake Bay. The SKI Sewer Project will serve 1,528 existing homes and eight commercial properties with an anticipated 560 infill properties. Phase one includes construction of the main truck line and will serve 754 properties. It was described as a sealed pressure system, which would prevent ground and storm water from getting into the line. The loan would carry an interest rate of .6 percent.
Jay Falstad, executive director of Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, and Barbara Obert, with the Kent Island Defense League, spoke in opposition of the project.
“We do believe there are failing septic systems …
but nowhere near the level … to justify the expense,” Falstad said.
He said the project would fix one problem by creating another, listing flooding control, school expansion and road construction as issues that would result.
Falstad talked about the prices of the homes being served and said there are other alternative less costly to taxpayers.
Obert said the county’s Public Works Advisory Board had recommended a pocket plant to ser ve southern Kent Island, but that recommendation had been ignored. She wanted to see proof the county had a plan to pay back the loan and asked the board to postpone funding until the county obtained 75 percent of needed rights-of-way and funding.
Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran, County Administrator
Gregg Todd and Public Works Director Todd Mohn represented the county at the meeting.
Moran said failing septics in the area have been a problem over the last 30 to 40 years. He said the 1,500 residents need help.
Todd explained the process the county used to arrive at the SKI Sewer Project as proposed and how it collaborated with the state to reduce the number of lots that would be served. He said no one wanted to build out 1,680 vacant lots.
The build out that will occur with take place slowly over a number of years, Todd said.
And, he stressed, the project will be paid for by the users.
Kopp said she had toured southern Kent Island in the past and the need is “quite clear.” She described what she witnessed as “odiferous”
Hogan said the Midshore Riverkeepers strongly support the project because of the amount of nitrogen it will keep out of the Bay. He mentioned emails he received from residents in support of the project, including one that that referenced what he paraphrased as “rivers of feces in their front yard.”
Franchot wanted to see documented proof of those “rivers of feces” and demanded officials produce the studies that show 80 percent of the houses have failing septics. He said he doesn’t believe the study exists.
He echoed many of Falstad’s earlier arguments.
Using the analogy of a baseball game, he said when there’s rain, you cover the field with a tarp; you don’t build a dome because there’s a chance of rain.
He said he thinks maybe 40 or 50 homes have problems, and those problems could be fixed for a lot less money without opening the area up to “sprawl development.”
Todd countered that the Comptroller’s tarp is very expensive to the individual homeowner, who is faced with installing a holding tank and ongoing pump outs at $600 each, which doesn’t correct the problem.
Franchot questioned contamination of surface water. He wanted to know if there were any documented cases of people getting sick from their exposure to sewage. He said there was a “definitional issue” and he was trying to draw the difference between groundwater and surface water.
With the high water table in the area, there are times when the groundwater will
fill ditches and they’re the same thing, Todd said.
Franchot said he believed they were being misinformed. He opposed the project.
“A new sewer system is better than failing septics if you have rising water,” Hogan said.
Hogan said he was concerned about the 1,500 people who live there now and that the status quo was to continue polluting the Bay.
“Addressing these problems by extending sewer service represents the best solution for reducing nitrogen pollution in the Bay and for alleviating public health risk to the community of having sewage floating around in their groundwater or laying in the yard,” Hogan said.
Kopp said there was really “no happy choice” but the sewer project was “a healthier choice.”