St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission (MetCom) at its Aug. 27 meeting.

Compton, MD —  The St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission (MetCom) has turned down a request to allow homes with failing septic systems to hook up to the St. Clements Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant. The commission decision came at their Aug. 27 meeting on a 5-1 vote.

The St. Clements Shores Plant serves a waterfront community in the Compton area. Many of the homes are on small lots created years before there was any zoning in the county. The sewage treatment plant uses a combination of spray irrigation and land disposal and has a capacity of 100,000 gallons per day. It is using 90,000 gallons of that capacity. The problem is there are 29 properties that are paying fees and can hook up at any time. Additionally there are almost 150 properties on a waiting list for future upgrades.

An upgrade has been on the table for quite some time, with MetCom and the county commissioners each pointing at each other to make the first move. The county commissioners want to know how much land is available in the immediate area and MetCom wants to know how many people the commissioners want to serve with the upgrade. MetCom Attorney Jacquelyn Meiser described it as “a chicken and egg situation.”

A committee of government agency members has been meeting for a while and has recommended hooking up seven properties, one with a health department order and six others in various states of septic system failure. But that recommendation was made even though the state says MetCom is still under an order not to exceed its 100,000-gallon capacity and can be fined daily if they exceed it, according to MetCom Acting Executive Director Mike Sullivan.

County Commissioner Mike Hewitt [R – 2nd District] was in attendance at the MetCom meeting. He assured MetCom of the county commissioners’ resolve: “We want this fixed.” Hewitt said he had visited a property in the community and saw raw sewage sheen over the yard.

“Don’t point at us and we won’t point at you,” Hewitt said.

It was ultimately decided to ask MetCom staff to develop a cost estimate for seeking bids for a study of the land needs in the area for additional capacity for an expanded plant. That, it was hoped, would kick start the discussion and allow the commissioners to make a decision on how many people to allow into the expanded plant. “Someone has to stand up,” said commission member Mike Thompson in suggesting MetCom take the lead.

But, that left a decision on the handful of properties with dire septic problems. Commission member Bob Russell made a motion to allow the one property under health department orders to hook up. That motion failed to garner a second. The motion that prevailed was to continue a moratorium for another six months to allow time to develop a plan. Russell voted against that motion.

MetCom and the county commissioners are expected to discuss the issue at their next joint meeting in the next several months.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com