Attorney General Gansler and Department of the Environment Prevail in Choptank River Pollution Case
$500,000 penalty ordered against Cambridge, MD country club
Raw sewage was discharged into wetlands along riverbank
MD ( Aug. 11, 2011) - A Dorchester County Circuit Court has imposed a $500,000 penalty against the owner/operators of Clearview at Horn's Point, a Cambridge, MD country club, for discharging raw sewage into wetlands along the Choptank River. The Court ruled that BSJ Partners, LLC, current owners of what was formerly known as the Cambridge Country Club, willfully and intentionally diverted raw sewage from a failed septic system into wetlands on a daily basis for more than two years.
“The extraordinary penalty we secured in this case is a severe warning to anyone who would pollute our wetlands, our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. “This office will aggressively pursue and punish those who violate the law and harm the health and well-being of Maryland's precious natural resources.”
“The Department of the Environment's inspector corps and environmental specialists from our Wastewater Permits Program did great work in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office to bring this important enforcement action to a successful conclusion,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers, Ph.D. “Many people across Maryland are working hard to restore water quality and the Chesapeake Bay, and a strong enforcement program protects the investment of all law-abiding citizens.”
Based on evidence presented at trial, the Court ruled that for more than two years, the owners of Clearview at Horn's Point saved $424,000 in out-of-pocket expenses by constructing an underground conduit and discharging raw sewage from the facility's failed septic system directly into wetlands rather than safely pumping and hauling out the sewage as directed by the Dorchester County Health Department, or connecting to a nearby municipal sewer line.
According to testimony by experts with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), water quality tests by the Department's inspectors showed high levels of fecal coliform in Jenkins Creek, which feeds into the Choptank River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. The MDE experts also testified that shellfish harvesting was substantially reduced. Fecal coliform bacteria are associated with raw human or animal waste and indicate the presence of sewage contamination in waterways.
In issuing his order, Judge Newton Jackson imposed a $485,000 civil penalty for environmental violations, a $15,000 penalty for failure to submit discharge monitoring reports over a three-year period and a $500 sanction for discovery violations.
Attorney General Gansler and Secretary Summers would like to thank Assistant Attorney General Steven Johnson and MDE Inspectors Naomi Howell and Nancy Craft for their work on this case.
Order: State of Maryland Dept. of the Environment v. BSJ Partners, LLC: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/BSJ_Partners_LLC.pdf