Flush Tax Funding Changes Stress Septic System Upgrades

SNOW HILL – Changes to the way flush tax funding is used in Maryland and who can avail themselves of that money will put the focus on upgrading septic systems in the critical area.

Interior properties need not apply for flush tax funding under the new regulations.

A bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly this spring by a narrow margin enshrines the new approach, making a transition from voluntary septic upgrades to regulations imposed on property owners in the critical area.

The Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area, and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, extend 1,000 feet inland from the edge of tidal waters and tidal wetlands.

“We’re getting a new set of directions from MDE [Maryland Department of the Environment] on the priority list,” said Worcester County Environmental Programs Administrator Bob Mitchell.

Installation of pre-treatment technology on a septic system in the critical area will reduce the amount of nutrients released into local waterways from that system twice as much as installing the same technology on an interior property.

Until this fall, the program to add Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) technology to failing septic systems has been voluntary.

The specific regulations have yet to come down from the state, but Mitchell said the law now requires ENR technology on septic systems within the critical area and must be installed when a drain field or septic tank fails or when a new system is installed.

“The state may or may not pay for it depending on grant funding,” said Mitchell. 

New construction will not be eligible for grant money under the new state regulations, Mitchell said.

Applicants for flush tax grant money to cover the installation of the ENR technology will also face an income cut-off to prevent well-off property owners from receiving funding, according to Mitchell, which has happened in the past.

Low-income property owners will not be targeted, Mitchell explained to the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday, outside the established critical area.

The county is completing installation of voluntary septic treatment upgrades currently, Mitchell said, and will soon be going back to the County Commissioners to recommend applying for more flush tax funding.