The use of package treatment plants, shared septic systems, and other shared wastewater treatment facilities will undoubtedly be part of the discussion of the Governor’s recently announced septic and wastewater task force. While such “shared facilities” may be valid alternative to septic systems in certain circumstances, many counties remain concerned about their high operation and maintenance costs. Some environmental and Smart Growth advocates also believe that the widespread use of shared facilities will encourage sprawl.
As reported in a June 24 SoMdNews.com article, Charles County is considering an ordinance change that would allow multiple properties or businesses to share a single septic system. The proposal drew mainly opposition, including from the Charles County Planning Commission.
Brenda Thomas, president of the Western Charles County Community Association, was the only person to speak in favor of the proposal, which is also opposed by the Charles County Planning Commission. Shared septic systems could be the fastest way to provide poor rural families with sewage disposal and, therefore, with running water, she said.
“I’ve been working with so many families that don’t have running water because the property” is unsuitable for private septic, Thomas said. “When kids don’t have running water, they go to school smelling a little unusual and you try to figure out what that smell is, and it’s because they don’t have running water.”
While Edwin Baker of Nanjemoy saw shared septic as a possible situation in extreme cases, he also saw them as potentially allowing for development in rural areas.
“If this goes forward, it should definitely limit it to the amelioration of existing septic and not allow for new development,” Baker said.