MDE Regulations Would Require Use of “Best Available Technology” Septics

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has released proposed regulations that require the use of best available technology for nitrogen removal (BAT) septic systems in new construction located in the Chesapeake or Atlantic Coastal Bays watersheds or in any watershed with a nitrogen impaired water body.  New construction includes the modification or renovation of an existing building if the capacity of the septic system must be increased.  Replacement septic systems for buildings located in a Chesapeake Bay or Atlantic Coastal Bays critical area must be BAT.

Unlike traditional septic systems, BAT systems have motors and moving parts and require electricity.  BAT systems need annual servicing and maintenance and the regulations require that a property owner have a BAT system inspected by a certified service provider at least once a year.  A property owner may become a certified service provide if the owner completes a course offered by MDE.

A BAT septic system is more expensive to install and operate than a traditional septic system.

The use of BAT systems was a recommendation of the 2011 Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal.  However, the recommendation was not included in the introduced or final version of Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2012 septics legislation.

In a strongly worded May 4 column Barry Rascovar accuses the O’Malley Administration of undermining the General Assembly’s work on the septics legislation.

On Wednesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill that was widely touted during the General Assembly as a concession to rural and suburban counties. It gives subdivisions, not the state, more control over land-use planning. The new law touches on the touchy issue of septic systems, but indirectly.

No matter: Five days earlier, O’Malley’s administration had made much of that new law — and the hard work by legislators over the past two sessions to find common ground — irrelevant.

Quietly, the governor’s Department of the Environment announced a new regulation banning the future use of septic systems unless home builders install costly, state-of-the-art wastewater-purifying equipment.

It was a covert, back-door scheme by O’Malley to negate what the legislature had crafted. It was a slap in the face to lawmakers who have been grappling with this issue since 2009.

Rascovar argues that the regulations will increase home costs and make it more difficult for working class families to own homes.  He advocates for a  more targeted and balanced approach regarding the use of BAT systems.

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