State to Impose Curbs on Bay Wastewater

Maryland soon will begin using permits to limit the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus -- two major Chesapeake Bay pollutants -- discharged by large sewage treatment plants.

The new limits are pending approval of state water-quality standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the state Department of the Environment. They then would be phased in over five years and eventually would cover 66 treatment plants, or about 95 percent of the state's wastewater, officials said.

Upgrades to the sewage plants will be paid for by using the state's "Flush Tax," which imposes a fee on users of public sewage systems.

Frederick Passes $58 Million Budget

Frederick's Board of Aldermen has passed a $58 million city budget for fiscal 2006 that includes money for 12 jobs sought by Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty.

The money to restore those positions will came from a fund used to pay for overtime and cuts to the Weinberg Center for the Arts and the Frederick Community Action Agency, spokeswoman Nancy Poss said. She said Dougherty would not veto the budget but the mayor is concerned that the budget leaves little room for contingencies.

"If there's overtime, it's going to have to be for an absolute emergency," Poss said. The vote was 3 to 1, with Alderman David G. Lenhart (R) opposed. Alderman Marcia A. Hall (D) was absent. The budget takes effect July 1.

School Funding Ruling Weakened

The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday struck down part of a lower court order in a lawsuit over Baltimore school funding, ruling that the school system is not exempt from a state requirement to speedily erase a $58 million budget deficit.

In the high court's opinion, Judge Alan M. Wilner wrote that the state legislature has the authority "to prohibit local school systems from running deficits, and, if they do run such deficits, to insist that they be promptly eliminated."

The opinion voided a portion of an Baltimore Circuit Court order in August. The lower court found state deficit-elimination rules in conflict with Baltimore's mandate under the state constitution to provide students with basic educational programs.

The high court spurned a state appeal for intervention to overturn other parts of the 2004 lower court opinion. That preserved the authority of the Circuit Court to monitor school funding issues in Baltimore. "There clearly has been no final judgment in this case," Wilner wrote. "The case is very much alive in the circuit court."

State Suggests Accord for Trail, Trains

The administration of Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) might continue subsidizing the embattled Western Maryland Scenic Railroad if its operators stop fighting construction of an adjacent hiking and biking trail, the state's tourism director said yesterday.

Dennis M. Castleman, an assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said some train passengers Sunday were told over a loudspeaker that the tourist railroad was threatened by the Allegheny Highlands Trail in Maryland. He said the attractions can coexist and should be marketed as part of a comprehensive tourism campaign.

It was the state's first public indication that it might be willing to spend more money on the 16-year-old railroad after a regular track-maintenance subsidy ends at the end of this season


Project May Diminish Water Pressure

Some residents of Northwest Washington might experience slightly reduced water pressure over the next several weeks because of improvements being made at a Northwest pumping station, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority officials said yesterday.

WASA yesterday began reducing pressure out of the Bryant Street pumping station as engineers replace pumps and electrical systems at the plant, said Jerry Johnson, WASA's general manager. The work is part of a $40 million overhaul that has been underway for three years, he said.

The pressure reduction is expected to last three to four weeks, but officials said they think the work will have little impact on service to businesses and residents.

Council Member Backs Smoking Ban

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) announced yesterday his support for a comprehensive smoking ban in District workplaces, including bars and restaurants. "It's first and foremost a health issue," Graham said.

Supporters of a ban are pushing for passage of a bill this year and said Graham's support is key because the many bars and restaurants in Adams Morgan and on U Street NW are included in his ward.

The council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment is scheduled to hold hearings on the issue Tuesday.


Court Upholds Institutionalizing Convicts

The Virginia Supreme Court upheld yesterday a state law allowing the civil commitment of violent sex offenders after their prison terms expire.

The law allows authorities to keep such offenders confined in a mental hospital if the state can show that the offenders cannot control their behavior and are likely to commit another sex crime.

Two men confined under the Sexually Violent Predator Act challenged the law on various constitutional grounds, including double jeopardy. The court unanimously rejected their claims.

Hundreds of Pigs Die After Power Outage

More than 500 pigs at a Sussex County farm owned by a Smithfield Foods subsidiary died this week when a barn's ventilation system failed. Workers for Murphy-Brown LLC found 513 dead pigs when they arrived at the barn early Monday. Power had been knocked out overnight, said Don Butler, public affairs director for the company.

The dead pigs were transported to a rendering plant in Smithfield. More than 200 pigs in the barn survived, Butler said.

Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on Wednesday called on the state Office of Veterinary Services to investigate. An anonymous whistle-blower told PETA about the incident, and PETA told the state and the news media.

Butler said the deaths were an accident.

"Give it a couple of years. They'll be bumping heads."

-- Baseball fan Jeremy Holbrook, of the now-civil relations between Nationals and Orioles fans. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Nick Anderson, David A. Fahrenthold, Eric Weiss, Clarence Williams and Frederick Kunkle and the Associated Press.