- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

SAVAGE, Md. (AP) — Sewage treatment plants in some of Maryland’s fastest-growing areas will be more closely monitored to keep up with rising demand on aging systems, the environment secretary said yesterday.

For the first time, the Maryland Department of the Environment will marry plant inspections with reviews of plans for new houses and businesses, Secretary Kendl Philbrick said at a press conference at a Little Patuxent River sewage plant.

The new procedures, which mainly aim to keep expanding communities from “overtaxing infrastructure,” wouldn’t prevent the sewage overflows that spewed into the Corsica River from a plant in Centreville, in Queen Anne’s County, Mr. Philbrick said.

He believes that plant, now run by a private contractor, was a victim of poor operation and faulty reporting, not an overloaded system.

Still, Centreville’s overflows alerted Mr. Philbrick’s agency to a larger problem, he said. Many fast-growing communities are connecting housing developments and new businesses to their aging sewage systems without proper advice from state environmental officials, he said, calling the new monitoring methods a more “holistic” approach.

“The steps I’ve described reflect the lessons we learned in Centreville,” Mr. Philbrick said. “Yes, we do learn from our experiences, and we do try to improve.”

Mr. Philbrick said state officials now will review monthly logs of plants’ flow and compare it to the facility’s capacity and how many new connections are impending.

Federal environmental officials said the new methods will bring Maryland in line with procedures used in Pennsylvania and several other states.

Maryland’s Department of the Environment has to “actively start managing the loads to the system,” said David McGuigan, associate director of the water protection division in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) region that includes Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware.

While the environmental agency doesn’t have the power to regulate land planning, Mr. Philbrick said he’s confident that local officials will take the recommendations seriously.

Working with the state Department of Planning also will alert environmental officials to plants that are facing rapid growth and potentially stressed sewage systems, Mr. Philbrick said.

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