Severn River Association Meeting September 15, 2009
“Reducing Two Pollutants from our Properties that Impact the Severn”
Three speakers this evening talked about pollutants that come from “us” – yes, what we create and informed the SRA audience on what we can do to reduce these pollutants. Pollutants can come off developed land in the form of septic tanks, stormwater runoff, and animal waste.
- Bob Whitcomb gave an update on the oyster program. The SRA has 1000 oyster cages out so far – 450 in Spa Creek. Spa Creek has oyster cages at the City Harbor Master and City Hall of Fame. 300 Cages were distributed in Saefern. Chris Judy plans to give Burnell 70 cages. A round of applause was given to thank all those involved in the program.
Nitrogen-Reducing Technologies for Septic Tanks. Two speakers, Ed Peters and Kerry Toposki, from Anne Arundel Department of Health gave us information about the new nitrogen reducing septic systems. The Bay Restoration Fund for Septic systems reimburses AACo residents when they install these new innovative septic systems. www.aahealth.org
- The Flush Fee of $2.50/month is charged for residence on public sewer and the Flush Tax of $30/year for residence on septic systems goes to the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF).
- The State of Maryland collected 12.6 M annually and AACo should receive 2.6 M of that. Maryland’s Department of the Environment (MDE) administers the BRF, and authorizes the level of funding for each County. AA County spent all of last year’s funds, and is waiting approval of this year’s allotment.
- AACo has 26% on septic (40,000 systems) of which 1/3 are in the critical area. Goal was to have130 systems in AACo upgraded but actually have completed 118 systems.
- Failing systems contribute nitrogen to the bay of which 80% comes from urine. Urine changes to urea, to ammonia, to nitrate which is highly water soluble and infiltrates to the ground water. Septic systems do not have a problem with phosphorus loads to the Severn River/Bay.
- Nitrogen load to the bay causes eutrophication – high algae growth in the river that then depletes the oxygen. This chokes the aquatic life (fish, crabs, oysters, etc.)
- These innovative systems improve the microbial process that is needed to get rid of the organic matter and prolong the life of the drain field.
- Priority is to install these upgrades on septic systems that are failing in the critical area.
- Ed showed us what these systems looked like. All have been approved by the MDE and have an aeration system that help the microorganisms and an anaerobic system that changes the nitrate to nitrogen gas. Ed admitted that some of the systems are not working as efficient as they anticipated.
- Comment from audience was that at this rate it would take 400 years to fix all the systems in AACo and wouldn’t it be better to get off septic and move everyone to WWTP? Use the BRF for community sewer systems?
- MDE issues guidelines setting priorities for funding system upgrades. The current economic crisis reduced the amount of money in the BRF for this fiscal year, and upgrades will only be available for failing systems, with first priority being those in the critical area. Models estimate that 80% of the nitrogen in the critical area migrates from Ground Water (GW) to Surface Water (SW). Outside the critical area – 40% of GW reaches SW.
- This is an evolving program and is going thru some bumps. AA Department of Health is accepting all applications for septic upgrades, but doesn’t know when any funds will be available for voluntary upgrades.
The Different Impacts of Nitrogen & Bacteria, Dr Sally Horner, Director, Operation Clearwater.
- Operation Clear Water indicates bacteria are a Stormwater problem because it is high after a rain event. Bacteria counts indicate that we should stay out of the Severn River for 48 hrs after it rains. Stormwater effect recreational use. Concern about vibrio vulnificus – the organism that causes infection in open sores resulting in serious infection and possible loss of limb.
- Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) report that bacteria in our river come from 28% wildlife, 24% livestock (?), 24% human, and 23% dogs.
- CBF says 1/3 is from atmosphere
- Aacounty.org/dpw/watershed has great mapping info.
- Stormwater is causing a brew of toxic soup.
- Reduce impervious surface by putting in rain barrels, rain gardens, planning more trees. Just 1 mature tree is equal to 10 rain barrels in stopping rain from running off.
- Another bad actor is lawn fertilizer. If you have a really green yard – you are polluting the bay. We already have enough phosphorus in our soil and do not need to be adding.
Reducing Bacteria from Pet Waste, Julie Winters, South River Federation Board Member.
- Julie’s educational outreach was a project initiated from the training she received from the Watershed Steward Academy. She was one of the first graduates from this program, developed by AACo DPW and Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center. The program, trains commuting leader called Master Watershed Stewards, to reduce the negative impacts of stormwater runoff in AACo.
- Our pet waste does end up in our river and Arundel-on-the-Bay was used as an example of how to reduce that pollutant.
- Pet Stations were installed throughout the community common areas.
- If all the waste in this community is disposed properly in these stations the reduction of stormwater contribution to our River is significant. Someone in the audience calculated that if only 100 dogs waste was collected every day, you reduce tons of waste that potentially can enter the water we swim in.
- Poop happens …. Deal with it! Scoop the poop for better water quality.
- It’s the Law! AACo law Article 12 Sec. 4-909: fine up to $500.00