Mountain Christian Church is in Harford County. But it is just over the line from Baltimore County, where officials say they were not properly notified about the church’s plan to build a wastewater treatment plant. The discharge from that plant would make its way into Baltimore County via the Gunpowder River.
There is a public hearing on that proposal Tuesday night in Perry Hall. It's being held by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE.) WYPR’s John Lee joined Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner in the studio to talk about it.
Sterner: So what is it that the church wants to do?
Lee: It has a septic system which is failing and in fact is in ongoing violation of state regulations. So Mountain Christian, which has more than 5,000 members, wants to replace that with a wastewater treatment system that MDE officials say would be the most advanced system in Maryland for a facility of this size. In a statement on its Facebook page, Mountain Christian said this is evidence of its commitment to the environment. But there are those who aren’t so sure about that, pointing out that the church currently is in violation.
Sterner: This is the second public hearing being held by the Maryland Department of the Environment on this proposal, correct?
Lee: Yes. And many of the dozens of people who attended the first one a couple of weeks back in Harford County live in Baltimore County. And they made it clear they were not happy with both the proposal and how it’s been handled. Lillian Deeble lives in Kingsville and she told state officials the public notice about the project didn’t cut it.
Deeble: “If you think advertising in The Aegis twice got anybody’s attention, it did not. We did not know about it until our Councilman David Marks made us aware of it. We are horrified.”
Lee: By the way, The Aegis is Harford County’s local newspaper and is part of The Baltimore Sun.
Sterner: Lillian Deeble mentioned her Baltimore County Councilman, David Marks. What doe he have to say about this?
Lee: Marks says this is a lesson learned and that they will have to keep a closer watch on what’s happening in Harford County from now on.
Marks says Harford has known about the church’s plan for a year, while he only found out about it a few weeks ago. Once he did, Marks took to social media, which is no doubt why so many people jammed the previous public hearing.
Marks: “This proposal is literally yards from Baltimore County. And the water system is in both Baltimore and Harford Counties. And I think there should have been a lot more coordination.”
On the other hand, Harford County Councilman Joe Woods says Baltimore County has had plenty of opportunities to catch wind of what Mountain Christian Church is proposing.
Woods: “Harford County Council did a public hearing on it in 2018 and we posted it twice and held two public hearings. Three people showed up.”
Lee: The Maryland Department of the Environment also notified the office of State Senator J.B. Jennings, who represents portions of both Baltimore and Harford Counties.
Senator Jennings confirmed he got the notification from MDE but he did not pass it along to Baltimore County. Jennings says if you start notifying neighboring jurisdictions that might be affected by something, where does that end? Also, Senator Jennings says he pushed MDE to hold this second public hearing Tuesday evening, which gets under way at 6:30 p.m. in the Perry Hall Library.
Jennings supports what the church wants to do, adding that he does not want sewer lines run out to the church because that would just lead to development that would turn that portion of Harford County into another Perry Hall. And Councilman Marks, who by the way represents Perry Hall, says he feels he’s done his job by alerting people in Baltimore County to the church’s plans.
Sterner: So what happens now?
Lee: The public comment period runs until August 2, then the MDE will make a decision about the Mountain Christian Permit after that.