Maryland residents concerned about the water-quality impacts of a large housing and commercial development on the Eastern Shore have three new opportunities in October to share their opinions with decision makers.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has scheduled a public hearing Oct. 28 on its plan to permit treated wastewater from a planned development in Trappe, called Lakeside, to be sprayed on nearby farm fields. It will be held in person at the Talbot County Community Center​​ and Curling Rink, at 10028 Ocean Gateway in Easton.

Development site in Trappe, MD

Farm fields and forest that will be used as treated sewage spray fields for the proposed development at Trappe, MD. Miles Creek is in the foreground.

Talbot County’s council and planning commission, meanwhile, plan to hold hearings of their own before the MDE session to revisit their 2020 votes in support of the project.

The MDE had issued a groundwater discharge permit in December 2020 for the proposed community of 2,501 homes and apartments plus a shopping center, to be built on an 860-acre tract annexed nearly two decades ago by the town of Trappe. Earlier this year, though, a Talbot County judge ordered the department to give the public another opportunity to comment on the permit because of changes made in it before being issued. 

The MDE’s newly proposed permit — unchanged since its original issuance — would allow the developer to eventually spray an average of 540,000 gallons of wastewater daily on grassy fields. It must be treated using enhanced nutrient removal to lower the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. A lagoon is also required to store wastewater for up to 75 days during winter and when it’s raining or too windy to spray.

Neighboring residents and environmental groups have questioned the MDE’s assurances that the nutrients and other contaminants in the wastewater would be soaked up by the grass in the fields. They fear it could seep into groundwater or run off into nearby Miles Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River.

In addition to in-person comments at the hearing, the MDE will consider written comments submitted by Nov. 5. Those should be emailed to mary.dewa@maryland.gov or mailed to Mary De​la Onyemaechi, Chief, Groundwater Discharge Permits Division, Maryland Department of the Environment, Water and Science Administration, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, Maryland 21230-1708.

Project opponents have gathered about 200 signatures on a petition calling on the Talbot County Council to rescind its 2020 resolution in support of the development. The resolution amended the county’s water and sewer plan to include Lakeside, which effectively cleared the way for the MDE to issue its permit.

Opponents say the council should withdraw its backing, particularly because of changes the developer has made since then in how Lakeside’s wastewater will be handled. The first 89 homes in the development, already under construction, are to have their sewage piped to Trappe’s wastewater treatment plant. That plant discharges into LaTrappe Creek, a Choptank River tributary already impaired by excessive nutrient pollution.

When the Talbot County Planning Commission meets at 9 a.m. on Oct. 6, it will discuss whether to rescind its 3 to 2 vote in 2020 recommending that the council support the Lakeside project. The council will meet in the Bradley room at the Talbot County Courthouse and take comments from the public.

The County Council hearing takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 at the Talbot County Courthouse at 11 N. Washington St. in Easton.

Tim Wheeler is the Bay Journal's associate editor and senior writer, based in Maryland. You can reach him at 410-409-3469 or twheeler@bayjournal.com.

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