Baltimore Sun Editorial points to need for broader MDE notice of discharge permits

Thanks to the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board for their coverage of the MDE National Pollution and Elimination Discharge Permit Application that would allow discharges of treated wastewater Indian Grave Run, an ephemeral tributary that empties into Little Gunpowder Falls just downstream of the Jericho Bridge.

In an editorial article titled; It flows downhill: Harford county wastewater project shows flaws in state approval process, The editorial board brought up the following points that we have provided as excerpts from the full article.

The Baltimore County Council’s unanimous resolution opposing a wastewater treatment plant permit for a Harford County church is throwing a late wrench in a process that’s been going on for two years — and that’s the fault of the process, not of the council. The plan to deal with Mountain Christian Church’s failing septic system calls for an average of 2,400 gallons per day of treated wastewater to be piped into stream that empties into the Little Gunpowder Falls right at the Jericho covered bridge, arguably affecting Baltimore County more than Harford. Yet it wasn’t until this summer that the proposal came to the attention of Baltimore County leaders, more than a year after Harford’s council voted unanimously on a master plan change to allow the project to move forward…

Still, not everyone is convinced that the treatment plant is the only or best way to handle the church’s wastewater needs. The proposal has generated significant opposition from residents on both sides of the Baltimore-Harford County line, and the Gunpowder Riverkeeper has presented detailed critiques of it, arguing that even the relatively small amount of treated wastewater the project would generate poses environmental risks. Among other concerns, the riverkeeper, Theaux M. Le Gardeur, notes the tributary the system would discharge into empties into part of the Little Gunpowder that is a popular recreational area where the water quality is already threatened. Furthermore, the tributary is an intermittent stream, meaning it does not flow year-round but is dry in certain seasons and under certain conditions. Introducing wastewater into the system, no matter how well it’s treated, could upset the ecosystem’s balance, he said. State regulations forbid a direct discharge of this type into an intermittent stream unless all other options have been considered, and Mr. Le Gardeur argues that they haven’t been…

…There’s a bigger lesson here, though. Baltimore County was clearly going to be impacted by this project just as much as Harford County, yet the state’s approval process included no formal role for its elected officials. That needs to change. The Baltimore County Council is absolutely right — the General Assembly needs to create stronger notification requirements for projects like this near a jurisdictional border. After all, water has a funny habit of moving from one place to another regardless of what lines we draw on a map.