Both Governor Larry Hogan and Delegate Stephen Lafferty have introduced legislation during the 2018 Session addressing septic systems and the use of best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT). The use of BAT septic systems was a major issue during the 2017 Session. Here is a quick summary of both bills:
Septic Stewardship Act of 2018
HB 361/SB 314 is an Administration bill and includes several components relating to BAT septic systems and the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF). Both versions have numerous Republican legislators as co-sponsors. The bill has three primary parts:
- The bill exempts a septic system owner from paying the BRF fee if: (1) the owner has a BAT system; and (2) the owner did not receive a State or federal grant or income tax subtraction modification for installing the BAT system. This new language is analogous to existing law that provides an exemption for users of wastewater facilities operating at enhanced nutrient removal level or better.
- The bill alters how the money going into the BRF septic system/cover crop account is divided. Currently, 60% of the funds going into the account goes towards septic systems (including BAT upgrades and connections to wastewater treatment plants) and 40% goes to the Maryland Agriculture Water Quality Cost Share Program within the Department of Agriculture for cover crop activities. The bill would change that distribution to 50% for septics and 50% for cover crops.
- The bill would allow BRF septic system money to be used by eligible homeowners for the reasonable cost of pumping out a septic system once every 5 years. In order to be eligible, the homeowner must reside in a local jurisdiction that has developed a “septic stewardship plan.” The plan must include provisions to ensure that septic systems are properly operated and maintained, including being subject to routine pump-outs and inspections.
Sale or Transfer of Home Within the Critical Area
HB 458 is a bill sponsored by Delegate Stephen Lafferty and would require that a home that is on a septic system located within the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coast Bays Critical Area must have a BAT system or be upgraded to a BAT septic system before the home is sold or transferred.
Other Possible Legislation
It is still possible that other legislation affecting septic systems could be introduced. One potential idea that has been discussed would require the use of BAT septic systems within 1,000 feet of any impaired waterway or stream.