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Maryland Governor Wades Into Septic Tank Battle

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Gov. O'Malley in Lake Bonnie, receiving reports on its water quality from members of the State's Department of the Environment.
Matt Bush
Gov. O'Malley in Lake Bonnie, receiving reports on its water quality from members of the State's Department of the Environment.

The town of Goldsboro is near Maryland's border with Delaware, and many of its homes and buildings have septic tanks. Just outside of town, tucked behind the trees, is Lake Bonnie. Fifteen years ago, it was closed to swimmers because of pollution, much of which comes from septic tanks in Goldsboro.

Swimming is still banned today, but that did not stop O'Malley (D) from wading into the lake with members of the state's Department of the Environment as they tested its water quality.

O'Malley is pushing a bill that would ban septic tanks at all new large developments in the state, saying that will slow pollution even as population in Maryland continues to grow.

"We can't assume that Mother Nature is always capable of healing herself, if we load onto her so much more nitrogen load than any natural system can absorb itself," he says.

Opponents feel the plan will lead to a building moratorium, particularly on the Eastern Shore, where septic tanks are common and new housing developments pop up regularly.

O'Malley counters by saying the state's total nitrogen load will increase 36 percent over the next 25 years, at a time when federal regulators have said the state must reduce nitrogen in its environment by 21 percent by 2020.

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