A panel of experts debated upcoming septic systems legislation at the MACo 2012 Winter Conference on January 5. Panelists were all members of the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal, which met last year and proposed recommendations to Governor Martin O’Malley on restricting the use of septic systems and increasing the Bay Restoration Fee. Cecil County Commissioner Tari Moore moderated the panel.
Secretary of Planning Richard Hall stated that the legislation was still being drafted and explained the recommendations of the Task Force. The main recommendations included tripling the Bay Restoration Fee and providing for a small local share, requiring all new septic systems to use nitrogen removal technology, and using a “4-tier” land classification system to limit the use of septic systems. He noted that the Maryland Department of Planning was working on the legislation to fill in the details of the tier system as the Task Force’s recommendations were fairly general.
Maryland Senator David Brinkley, who was often the sole dissenting vote on the Task Force, challenged many of the Task Force recommendations and argued against the Task Force’s underlying premise that septic systems could undermine Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration efforts. He stated that the septics legislation and PlanMaryland are “inextricably linked.”
Worcester County Environmental Programs Director Bob Mitchell focused mainly on the technological aspects of Task Force’s recommendations. He noted that the tier system was the result of the inability of Task Force members to agree on a specific number of lots for septic restrictions. Mr. Mitchell also raised concerns about the use of shared facilities as an alternative to septic systems, noting their costs and maintenance requirements. He also noted that septic systems with nitrogen removal technology needed regular maintenance and upkeep and that some kind of enforcement mechanism was necessary. He supported an online reporting system.