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Flush task force formed

A group of business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy and government leaders have been appointed to a state task force to study the impact of septic systems on future development of rural land.

Today’s move comes after debate during the 2011 General Assembly over the proposed Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, was appointed head of the task force and Jon Laria, named on Monday as managing partner in the law firm of Ballard Spahr will be vice chair. Laria, is a close political ally of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who appointed the task force. Laria also chairs the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.

“This effort is not about stopping growth — it is about stemming the tide of major housing developments built on septic systems to generate clean water and protect our environment and public health,” the governor said in a statement.

Task force members are Erik Fisher, land use planner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Fred Tutman, executive director of the Patuxent Riverkeepers and a member of the Patuxent River Commission; Robert Mitchell, administrator of the Environmental Programs Division of Worcester County; Rob Etgen, executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Pat Langenfelder, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Studies show that over the next 25 years, 26 percent of new residential units built in the state will install septic systems. Those systems are anticipated to create 76 percent of new nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland waterways and tributaries.

The task force is expected to report findings by Dec. 1.