Mountain Christian Church, a mega-church in Harford County, has backed off plans to build a wastewater treatment plant that would have released its discharge into a tributary of Little Gunpowder Falls.
That proposal caused an uproar in Baltimore County, because the Gunpowder crosses the county line. During the summer, dozens of people, mostly from the Kingsville area of Baltimore County, packed two public hearings to voice their opposition to the church’s discharge flowing into the Gunpowder. Environmentalists opposed it as well.
The Baltimore County Council in August passed a resolution opposing the proposal. That was highly unusual, since the council typically does not comment on issues outside the county. In this case however, council members said what was happening in Harford would negatively affect people living in Baltimore County.
Mountain Christian’s Executive Pastor Luke Erickson agreed the church was caught by surprise by the full-throated opposition.
“That’s fair to say,” Erickson said.
Erickson said the church is not disappointed and will continue looking for a solution.
The church, which averages around 3,000 people for Sunday services at its main church in Joppa, has to take action because its current septic system is failing and has been in violation of state regulations.
Erickson said for now, the discharge is being hauled away. He said the church plans to work with the Maryland Department of the Environment to develop a system that would have the treated wastewater discharged into the ground on the church’s property.
“We don’t have a time line on it,” Erickson said. “It still has to play out.”
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks led the charge against the original plan to discharge its treated wastewater into the tributary. He attributed the church’s reversal to two things.
“I think it’s the fact that so many residents raised concerns, but also the fact that Mountain Christian Church, I think, wanted to be a good neighbor in the end,” Marks said.
“The Gunpowder River Valley is one of the most spectacular parts of Baltimore and Harford Counties and I am glad that the church’s proposal will not advance,” Marks said.
MDE proposed the original plan to release the treated wastewater into the tributary. At the public hearings, MDE assured residents that the treated discharge would be safe, but most remained unconvinced.
Marks and other members of the Baltimore County Council were angered because MDE had not informed them about what was being considered in Harford County.
Marks said he wants the General Assembly to consider legislation that would require MDE to notify localities that may be impacted by a project outside their jurisdiction.
"It's up to the state legislature to pursue that, but I think the county council does think the notification requirements need to be improved," Marks said.