ELKTON — County Councilwoman Diana Broomell introduced a bill Tuesday to require county planning & zoning to notify adjacent property owners when a landowner applies for a permit to spread treated sewage sludge on farm fields as fertilizer.
Citizens opposed two sites near Locust Point Road when Maryland Department of the Environment conducted a public information meeting at Elkton High School in August on six sludge applications, prompting the property owners of the two sites drawing concern to withdraw their applications.
However, four other applications are still pending and are attracting attention of neighbors as more citizens become aware. Charles Herzog, owner of a farm near Liberty Grove Road next to one of the sludge application sites, criticized the current process at a Citizen Corner meeting Tuesday, adding that better notification should be required.
The county council met with County Executive Tari Moore last week to discuss potential legislation for 2014, including a proposed bill that would require MDE to notify by mail all adjacent property owners when a neighbor applies for a sewage sludge application permit. Moore told the council she thinks Cecil County’s Planning and Zoning Department should take responsibility to notify neighbors of each application site, just as they do for special exceptions, because she’s not confident the state will do so.
Council President Robert Hodge and Councilman Alan McCarthy said they want the state to take responsibility of informing neighboring owners.
“We should ask the state to do this, if they don’t we could pursue requiring planning and zoning to do so,” Hodge said.
Meanwhile, the county council asked MDE to conduct four more public information meetings on each of the remaining four applications, but MDE refused, saying they will only do one more meeting.
Hodge directed Council Manager Jim Massey to set the public information meeting up on the remaining four sludge application sites with Maryland Department of the Environment as soon as possible. MDE wanted it at Elkton High School again, but the County Council argued it needs to be at the County Administration Building so it can be audio recorded.
Sewage sludge is a biosolid that is the result of treating sewage for certain disease causing organisms, but not all potential chemicals and metals that could be in the sewage. It has been authorized by the state as a potential fertilizer on farm fields if all requirements are met.
Broomell prepared draft legislation to require the Department of Planning and Zoning to notify adjoining property owners as soon as they receive notice from MDE that an application has been received. It was introduced Tuesday night and reflects what Moore had suggested two weeks ago.
The remaining four sludge application permits in Cecil County are for farms located on Wards Hill Road and Grove Neck Road south of the C&D Canal. A 32-acre farm on Appleton Road near Belle Hill Road, owned by the Spry Brothers, and a 48-acre farm on Liberty Grove Road, owned by John & Marcia Harnish, are also being considered.
A public hearing on Broomell’s proposed legislation is scheduled for Nov. 19 and will be put to a vote at the council’s Dec. 3 meeting.