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If you were not able to attend the 8/26 Public Meeting on the Route 8 sewer extension issue, it was taped by the County and will air:

Wednesday, September 9 – 5:00 p.m. – Cable Channel 3.

If you would like to see it but are unable to watch it then, let us know and we will try to get a tape (or dvd) for you.

Sewer extension raises questions

To Jan Dickson, extending public water and sewer service down Route 8 South on Kent Island will mean a hefty expense on a tight household budget. 

To Mary Kerr, it means the floodgates will open for intense new development.

But to Franklin Walter and his wife Kathy, it means they'll be able to build a long-awaited retirement home.

These four were among 350 residents at an informational meeting Thursday night about the county's proposal to extend water and sewer lines to about 2,000 existing homes with failing septic systems on southern Kent Island.

John Nickerson, director of environmental health for the Queen Anne's County Health Department, told the crowd at Kent Island High School that the majority of older subdivisions on southern Kent Island have failing septic systems.

In other words, he said, the wastewater is not adequately filtered through the soil before being discharged into the groundwater.

"You don't have this 2-foot treatment zone in numerous lots. We're relying on that soil to clean (the wastewater) up before it enters the groundwater," Mr. Nickerson said.

The result, he said, is high levels of nitrogen and bacteria washing into and polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

Normal septic system wastewater discharges nitrogen levels of about 45 mg per liter. Once a $25 million expansion and upgrade at the Kent Island wastewater treatment plant is complete, nitrogen discharge levels will be limited to 3 mg per liter.

The project is expected to go out to bid in September, and construction could begin as early as November.

Although county officials haven't decided exactly how they plan to serve residents with septic system troubles, they intend to set aside 500,000 of the 3 million gallons of daily capacity from the upgraded plant for that purpose.

"We know this is a serious issue, probably one of the more serious issues we'll face as a board," said Board of Commissioners President Ben Cassell, R-Stevensville.

The state Department of Planning, meanwhile, is concerned that hundreds of vacant lots in the affected neighborhoods could become prime locations for new development.

In an Aug. 26 memo to the commissioners, Tom Rimrodt, assistant secretary for the department, said that because southern Kent Island is not an area the state has targeted for growth, the state isn't likely to help fund the project - especially if the county provides water and sewer service for vacant lots, in addition to existing homes.

Mrs. Kerr of Kent Island Estates was equally wary of the potential impact of a deluge of new houses on Kent Island.

"(The county commissioners) are looking at this through too narrow of a lens," she said. "In my opinion, they're using failing septics as an attempt to facilitate intense new development."

But providing sewer service for vacant lots would have a silver lining - substantially reducing the overall cost of the project for each property owner.

Joe Zimmerman, county finance director, said if the commissioners choose to serve only the 765 existing homes in Phase 1 of the project, which encompasses Kent Island Estates and Romancoke, the assessment per homeowner for water and sewer service is estimated at $40,000.

Providing water and sewer for the additional 722 vacant lots in the area reduces the cost to $27,000 per unit.

"The main thing for me is the money, especially when you're getting ready to retire," said Kent Island Estates resident Ms. Dickson. "As far as I'm concerned, they're going to have to include the vacant lots."

The Walters agree. They plan to build their retirement home on vacant land they own in Kent Island Estates, but denying sewer service to undeveloped lots would end that dream.

"We've been waiting patiently for about 30 years, and now they're going to deny us service? All this time, we've been paying taxes on this land. I don't see how that's fair," Mr. Walter said.

"We're not builders," added Mrs. Walter. "We don't want to wreck the place. We just want to put a little house there."

At the close of the two-hour meeting, Commissioner Nemo Niedomanski, R-Grasonville, stressed that all concerns would be carefully considered before any decisions are made.

"What happens on the Route 8 corridor on Kent Island affects all of us. One of our major goals is to clean up the bay, and we have to do what is necessary," he said. "But we're going to look at all of the alternatives. We're not going to rush this."

Published August 30, 2004, The Capital , Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2004 The Capital , Annapolis, Md.

Read Comments Regarding The Sewer Expansion

QAC Press Release - Able To Deny Service To Vacant Lots

State official says QA's can deny sewer service to undeveloped lots on Route 8  (mail to this address goes to all 5 Commissioners)

KIDL Web Guy Says:  Write to our Commissioners!  QAC Voter's Guide Lists Campaign Promises  |  |

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