BPW ap­proves $33 mil­lion loan for SKI

Record Observer - - Front Page - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

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”

and “gross.”

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.”

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