MACo Raises Delegation and Funding Diversion Issues on BAT Septic System Bill

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson requested amendments to legislation (HB 90) that would expand the use of the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) to assist low income homeowners with operation and maintenance contracts for septic systems using best available technology for nitrogen removal (BAT). While supportive of the basic concept, MACo is concerned about the imposition of new administrative oversight requirements on county governments and potentially limiting the BRF funding from being used for other authorized and necessary uses.

The bill requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to pay up to 50% of the cost of a 3-year operation and maintenance contract with BRF monies. Either MDE or a local government will determine an applicant’s eligibility and the amount of assistance MDE must provide based on the average cost of a 3-year contract in the applicant’s region. The bill defines “low-income homeowner” as having income that is 60% or less of the area median income. Delegate Stephen Lafferty introduced the bill.

From the MACo testimony:

MACo has no issue with requiring the use of a BAT septic system within a critical area as their nitrogen removal effectiveness has been shown to be highest there. MACo is also supportive of providing [operation and maintenance]assistance to low income homeowners as most BAT systems need ongoing maintenance in order to remain effective.

However, MACo is concerned with two of the bill’s provisions and would offer amendments to address our concerns. First, MACo believes that it should be a local decision whether the local government reviews potential applications under the bill – this “Delegation” should not solely be at the Department’s discretion. Second, MACo believes that some cap or limit needs to be placed on the amount of BRF funding provided for this purpose so that other allowed uses of the BRF septics account remain viable. As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, the total amount of grants MDE is able to issue under the account will likely decrease, potentially dramatically, without some protection as our amendment suggests.


Useful Links

HB 90

MACo HB 90 Testimony

Delegate Stephen Lafferty Webpage

Information on BRF

For more on MACo 2016 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.