Maryland Health Secretary Neil Solomon yesterday lifted a ban on new sewer connections that has severely limited development in vast areas of Montgomery and Prince Georges counties for the past eight years.
The action removed an obstacle to the construction of thousands of homes and apartments in such areas as Takoma Park and Laurel and particularly along the Rte. 29 corridor, which stretches from Silver Spring to the Howard Countyline.
Officials do not expect unlimited development in the area, however, since the decision immediately applies only to builders who have already obtained sewer hookup permits but have been unable to use them because of the ban.
Solomon said he lifted the ban because of expanded sewer capabilities in the areas.
Solomon imposed it because of actual and threatened overloads on the area's sewage treatment capacity, the result of rapid suburban growth in the postwar years that saw the combined population of the two counties go from about 350,000 in 1950 to about 1.2 million now.
Parts of the sewer moratorium - as it became known - had been lifted before yesterday's action and numerous exceptions had been granted during the eight-year period.
Nevertheless, the shortage of sewer capacity and the moratorium was said to have crippled the building industry in parts of those counties and contributed to the exploding costs of homes there by creating a housing shortage.
Sewer permit holders must still go through a long application process - as long as two years - before they can begin building.
In Montgomery County alone, the lifting of the moratorium could generate 9,000 new housing units and for an additional 22,500 people, according to Royce Hanson, director of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Prince George's officials said the number of new units there would not be "staggering" although they did not have a figure immediately available. That county's housing industry benefited from the lifting of the Western Branch sewer moratorium earlier last year.
In addition, Prince George's Planning Board member Raymond LaPlaca said that the Anacostia Basin moratorium lifted yesterday applied primarily to areas of Prince George's which are already heavily developed - such as Bladensburg, Palmer Park, Seat Pleasant, District Heights and Hyattsville.
"Removal of the restrictions is made possible by the completion of several major projects including expansion of the Anacostia pumping station, use of the Beaver Dam Interim Treatment Plant, construction of the Anacostia force main line into the District of Columbia, and completion of replacement and relief sewers in the Anacostia Drainage Basin," according to the announcement yesterday afternoon issued by Solomon's office.
The action, was expected by some local builders and in effect returns control of sewer and construction permits to local agencies.
Robert L. Mitchell, vice president of the Suburban Maryland Homebuilders Association, said, the action "will open up segments of the Montgomery County market. This will prodcue competition among builders, and should help" lower or stabilize the cost of new homes, he said.
Currently the average price of a new home in the county is $70,000, about the highest in the country.
Montgomery County Council member Neal Potter said the lifting of the sewer moratorium "catches us without a complete master plan for the Rte. 29 area," a principal commercial and industrial corridor in the county. Such a plan is not expected for another 18 months, he said.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] of disposing of their sewage sludge from the Blue Plains regional treatment plant.
The deadline was set by U.S. District Court Judge John Lewis Smith Jr., who said each area will be responsible for taking its share of sludge from the Blue Plains operation.
Smith said the disposal or composting sites must be ready to take sludge by Sept. 21, the last day Prince George's County has agreed to handle the region's total share. Like Montgomery County before it, Prince George's is burying the sludge in 2 1/2-foot-deep trenches.
Sludge disposal has become a major regional problem because of the huge quantities of the material that are generated at Blue Plains as a byproduct from the treatment of wastewater. At present, about 600 tons are produced each day. When Blue Plains' treatment process is improved in 1980, about 1,800 tons will be produced each day.
Because disposal of the messy and smelly material is not easy, none of the jurisdictions using Blue Plains has been able to arrive at a solution that didn't bring an outcry from one group or another.