AELR Committee Hears Septics Regulations

The Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) held a hearing on July 10 to consider proposed regulations that would require the use of best available nitrogen reduction technology (BAT) for replacement septic systems that would expand capacity and all new septic systems.  AELR is the body of the Maryland General Assembly that reviews regulations propose by executive branch departments and is composed of both Senators and Delegates.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo submitted a letter to AELR raising concerns over the cost and enforcement mandates the proposed regulations would impose on county governments and rural property owners.  Several State legislators, county elected officials and the Maryland Conference of Environmental Health Directors testified against the regulations.  Other stakeholders testifying against included the representatives of the homebuilders, realtors, BAT septic system manufacturers, and several private citizens.  Besides the Maryland Department of the Environment, which is proposing the regulations, the only stakeholders to testify in favor of the regulations were several environmental groups.

A July 10 article offers additional coverage of the hearing:

State Department of the Environment officials who wrote the regulations –– the only proponents aside from environmentalists –– told the  Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review joint committee that applying  best available septic technology statewide is the way to reduce nutrient  sediment load in the Chesapeake Bay. …

Senate President Mike Miller had criticized the department’s move during the  special session in May as “disrespectful to the Senate” after Brinkley had tried  to amend a budget bill and stop the regulation. The legislature had passed a  major legislation on septic systems that was amended to restrict state  authority.

St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners member Cindy Jones, R, and  Del. Charles Otto, R-Wicomico, –– representing one of the poorest jurisdictions  in the state –– urged the committee to consider the financial burden the  regulation would have for homeowners.

[Carroll County Board of Commissioners vice-president Richard] Rothschild said $1,000 to remove 3-4 pounds of nitrogen with  less than one-tenth of 1% impact is “a dog that doesn’t hunt and doesn’t get us  to where we need to be.”

As AELR lacked a quorum, its members could not vote on the proposed BAT regulations.  However, AELR members will be polled on their position starting on Monday, July 16.  AELR also considered regulations that would restrict the application of sewage sludge on fields.  The regulations would be extremely costly to several counties and municipalities as they would have to construct storage facilities to contain the human waste during times of the year when its application to fields would be prohibited.

County Environmental Health Officers Testimony