Grants for HomeownersThe Charles County Health Department has announced that grants are available to homeowners to subsidize the cost of upgrading on-site sewage disposal systems to ones capable of removing nitrogen. Grant funds can be used to pay costs associated with upgrading a septic system, as well as in the first five years of maintenance on the new system. Grant funds come from fees paid to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund by owners of septic tank sewage disposal systems.

Traditional on-site sewage disposal systems, as installed in Charles over the past 100 years, protect human health by disposing of wastewater sewage below the ground, thereby limiting human and animal contact. These systems do not remove nitrogen.

Nitrogen is discharged into the soil and then migrates with groundwater into nearby stream channels, as well as estuaries, rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake, causing over-enrichment by unwanted nutrients, the Health Department said in a statement.

Many waterways in Charles are experiencing a decline in water quality because of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. Such conditions affect the health of shellfish and fin fish and can limit recreational use of the waterways. The major contributors to nutrient discharge into waterways are wastewater sewage and urban and agricultural runoff.

Pre-application forms are available at the Health Department, 4545 Crain Hwy., White Plains, or at For more information, call 301-609-6751.

Public Health Hero AwardsThe St. Mary's County Health Department is seeking nominations for its Public Health Heroes awards.

To celebrate National Public Health Week, April 2-8, the Health Department will have its annual Public Health Heroes Breakfast on April 5 to honor people who live or work in St. Mary's and who, through emergency or disaster preparedness, promote public health in their daily lives.

This year's theme, "Taking the First Step," focuses on emergency preparedness. One emphasis is on identifying significant barriers to preparation that vulnerable populations face and providing them with the resources needed to create an emergency plan.

Public health officials identified women with children; hourly workers without health plans or stable employment; and people with chronic illnesses as among the groups that face challenges and often are disproportionately affected by disasters.

Nominations must be postmarked by March 9 and are available at the Health Department, 21580 Peabody St., Leonardtown, at libraries and online at

Nominators and honorees will be invited to the breakfast at St. Andrews Church, where David Zylak, St. Mary's public safety director, will be the ceremony's keynote speaker.

For more information, call 301-475-4318.

Auditions for 'Pippin'The Black Box Theatre in Indian Head is conducting an open audition at 10 a.m. Saturday for singers and actors for the cast of its production of "Pippin." Roles available include Fastrada, Lewis and Theo (an 8- to 10-year-old boy). Cast members must be able to sing and move well.

Those auditioning should bring a head shot and résumé. They also should prepare a musical selection and be prepared to move.

The show is scheduled to be performed Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from April 20 through May 20.

The theater is at 4185 Indian Head Hwy. For more information, call 301-399-5475.

Forum on Clean Air ActThe St. Mary's County Health Department has scheduled a public forum March 1 for officials to discuss the proposed Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007, which would ban smoking in all public establishments, including bars and restaurants.

The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center, 24005 Point Lookout Rd., Leonardtown.

Representatives from the American Cancer Society, the Health Department and the University of Maryland School of Law's Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation and Advocacy will be on hand. There will be a question-and-answer session.

The forum also will be videotaped for broadcast on St. Mary's cable Channel 95.