Worcester Backs Hogan’s Planned Septic Changes

SNOW HILL – County officials called Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to remove septic pretreatment requirements for systems throughout most of the state a victory.

During the Maryland Association of Counties conference, Hogan announced his plans to remove the septic pretreatment requirements for systems not in the state’s critical areas. At this week’s meeting of the Worcester County Commissioners, county staff praised the change as it will reduce most new home costs substantially.

“This is a good thing moving forward,” said Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs. “It’s a victory.”

Mitchell said the change was part of the Hogan administration’s commitment to reviewing existing regulations that were creating difficulties.

Essentially the change will mean that BAT (Best Available Technology) septic systems are only required for new construction in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays critical areas. Since 2012, the BAT systems had been required statewide for any new home. Now, they’ll only be required in the environmentally sensitive critical areas.

Mitchell said this was noteworthy because the BAT systems added anywhere from $13,000 to $15,000 to the cost of building a new home.

“Due to the fact we cannot have major subdivisions on septic, the grandfathering for our only major septic subdivision has expired, and that large systems and high strength wastewater systems will still need to provide treatment, the only local impacts would be a very small nitrogen contribution from individual residential septics,” Mitchell wrote in a report to the commissioners.

Kathy Phillips, executive director of Assateague Coastal Trust, says the organization is supportive of the fact that the state will continue to address failing septic systems in the critical areas but pointed out there were drawbacks.

“The benefit of this rollback is only for developers and those Marylanders who can afford large new single-family houses, while the enforcement crackdown will impact those Marylanders with failing systems, many of whom presumably can’t afford to upgrade them,” Phillips said.

She also said the change would have a negative economic impact on the vendors that installed the BAT systems as they’d have significantly less work.

“So it may be the broader impacts of this roll back will be that one industry wins and another loses,” she said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.