Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs and Policy Horacio Tablada provided updates on the proposed best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT) septic system repeal, nutrient credit trading, and watershed implementation plan (WIP) review to the MACo Legislative Committee at its 2016-09-21 meeting.
BAT Septic System
Tablada noted that repealing the requirement for BAT Septic Systems was the top request received by Maryland’s Regulatory Reform Commission and that the proposed regulations for the repeal were published in the 2016-09-16 edition of the Maryland Register. Along with the repeal, MDE is strengthening its enforcement on maintenance for existing septic systems and looking at additional ways to address failing septics, such as connecting those homes to sewer lines. Tablada stressed that local governments retained the authority to require BAT septics in all or part of their jurisdictions. Tablada noted that MDE had released a FAQ sheet on the proposed regulations (link below).
Nutrient Credit Trading
Tablada stated the Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin (Ben) Grumbles remains interested in and committed to nutrient credit trading. He referenced the ongoing efforts of Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee (which has 5 MACo and county representatives with a sixth rural member to be added shortly). The Committee is conducting a final review of a draft trading manual at its 2016-09-22 meeting. Tablada noted that buyers and regulators will need to have confidence in the validity of the credits in order for the system to work and that some regulatory changes will need to be made starting in the Spring of 2017. Tablada said that MDE hoped to do a pilot program with several local jurisdictions before rolling out a statewide program.
Tablada also explained that trading can help those counties with Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits. However, until the final trading regulations are in place in approximately 1 year, trading could only be allowed if MDE rewrote a jurisdiction’s permit to allow for trading or MDE included trading as part of an enforcement tool or consent order.
Tablada reiterated that 2017 is a major review year for the State and local WIPs, with new pollution targets and requirements possibly following in 2018. MDE has begun conducting an internal review of its water programs in anticipation of the full review next year. Tablada stressed that Maryland must: (1) address water pollution in its own local waters and the Chesapeake Bay; and (2) encourage enforcement against external pollution sources that affect the state (such as the Conowingo Dam and Susquehanna River).