Former State Officials Criticize BAT Septic Repeal

A Bay Journal article (2016-09-18) reported that several former State officials are critical of Governor Lawrence (Larry) Hogan’s proposed repeal of the use of best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT) septic systems outside of the critical areas. New homes within a critical area (an area within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake or Atlantic Coastal Bays or their tributaries) will still have to have a BAT system. The article stated that BAT septics cost about $7,500 more than traditional systems, require about $112 a year in electricity usage, and $150-$300 per year in maintenance after the first five years. The article summarized the rationale of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in introducing regulations to repeal the mandate:

In a brief interview, [Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben] Grumbles acknowledged that the rollback would allow more nitrogen pollution to enter the Bay, but he called the increase “insignificant.” He said state officials would figure out how to offset it as they devise a plan for keeping nutrient pollution from increasing with future growth and development in Maryland. …

In a prepared statement released by the MDE, Grumbles said, “We are customizing the statewide requirement to meet local watershed needs more effectively while still insisting on excellent environmental results.”

However, former Secretary of the Environment Robert (Bob) Summers disagreed with the repeal:

Robert Summers, who worked at the MDE for 30 years and served as environment secretary under former Gov. Martin O’Malley, said nitrogen from septic systems everywhere, not just those closest to the Bay, threatens water quality.

“I fail to see how it is an unfair regulatory burden on septic owners that they treat their wastewater when those of us on sewage systems are paying more and more for upgrades to collection systems and treatment plants,” Summers said. “The whole population needs to do its share to control pollution. Why should rural residents get a free pass?”

Former Secretary of Planning Richard (Rich) Hall echoed Summers’ concern:

Making new homes pay for less-polluting septic systems and restricting where they could be built was intended to steer development into urban cores and reduce land fragmentation, said Richard Hall, who was secretary of planning under O’Malley.

Changing the regulations is “just 360 bad,” Hall said. “You’re polluting and you’re not paying to remove that nutrient pollution, unlike the people on sewer, who are paying.”

The article stated that according to MDE, Maryland would still meet its 2017 nitrogen reduction requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load even if the repeal goes forward.

Previous Conduit Street Coverage of BAT Septic Systems

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