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Md. Governor Will Reintroduce Septic Tank Ban

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Field of soybeans at the Lazy Day Farms and Layton Chance Winery in Dorchester County. Cover crops, which help remove excess nitrogen from the soil, are planted in the corn fields, which are off in the distance to the right.
Matt Bush
Field of soybeans at the Lazy Day Farms and Layton Chance Winery in Dorchester County. Cover crops, which help remove excess nitrogen from the soil, are planted in the corn fields, which are off in the distance to the right.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is celebrating one milestone in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, but he's getting ready for a fight on another.

O'Malley says the state's cover crop program has seen record enrollment this year. It offers farmers grants if they plant cover crops, which grow during the winter months and take up unused nutrients in soil, such as nitrogen. Soil runoff of nitrogen is one of the biggest pollutants in the bay.

While he's happy with that success, the governor is gearing up for another campaign to ban septic tanks in new large developments. O'Malley first proposed the measure during this year's legislative session, but it didn't go very far.

The proposal will likely have a slightly narrower focus next year.

The bill will target "these large septic McMansion developments, where you have 200-300 households all on individual septic systems, that harm the waters of the bay," he says.

The very same family farmers O'Malley praised for enrolling in the cover crop program pushed back against the septic tank ban, and the governor says their concerns have been heard.

"If a family wants to be able to make sure there is a parcel for a son or daughter to be able to raise their own family and have their own privacy and their own space," O'Malley says. "That they are able to parcel off a certain number of lots in order to do that."

Fellow Democrats, namely state senate president Mike Miller, bashed O'Malley's original plan, saying he had no understanding of the impact a septic tank ban would have on areas such as the state's Eastern Shore.

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