Larry Hogan gives an early holiday gift to Maryland lot owners.
The Hogan administration revised regulations which formerly required that all new septic systems in Maryland utilize Best Available Technologies for the removal of nitrogen (“BAT” systems). Eliminating the BAT requirement will substantially reduce the cost of septic system construction in many, but not all, circumstances in central and western Maryland.
The original BAT requirement was imposed effective January 1, 2013 and was part of Maryland’s response to the regional Chesapeake Bay restoration program. The intent was to remove a source of nitrogen flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.
BAT systems include an additional treatment system consisting of a multi-chamber tank that includes a pre-treatment trash chamber, an aeration chamber and a pump chamber prior to discharging liquid effluent to an approved drain field. A blower is required for the aeration chamber to supply oxygen for the aerobic process.
This blower and the pump require the installation of a dedicated electrical circuit. According to professional septic system installers I’ve spoken with, the BAT requirement for a typical 4 bedroom residence adds between $8,000 and $10,000 to the cost of installing a septic system. BAT systems also include electrical and mechanical components – annual service is required, electric bills are higher, and over time there will be substantial repair costs.
But shouldn’t every reasonable person want to see a healthier Chesapeake Bay even if it means financial sacrifices? Why would anyone be against BAT?
The problem was that BAT was instituted statewide with little regard given to actual benefits. In many locations in Maryland the nitrogen removed by BAT would have been removed by natural processes before ever reaching a creek or river or the Chesapeake Bay itself. The actual benefit resulting from the $10,000 initial investment and ongoing operating costs were never quantified and are minimal in many cases.
The public should understand that the BAT system regulations were not repealed, they were amended. There is consensus that septic systems in certain areas do negatively affect water quality. BAT systems are still required in the clearly defined Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast Bay Critical Areas, and in large (mostly commercial or institutional) septic systems.
Additionally, each county may require BAT systems in other settings. In Frederick County, BAT systems are still required in Wellhead Protection Areas, in cases were soil conditions are problematic or where the land area available for septic absorption is limited.
The bottom line is BAT systems will still be required in many situations, but it’s no longer a “one size fits all” solution mandated in every situation throughout the state.
The relationship between benefits and costs related to BAT is now factored in. It’s a common sense and balanced approach and all Marylander’s should be thankful for that gift during this holiday season.
Dave Wilkinson, Vice President, joined MacRo as Director of Marketing in 1992, and has served as Vice President since 1997. Dave holds a B.S. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Delaware. Dave is a licensed Realtor and brokers most of MacRo’s land and farm deals.