Smart and Balanced Regulatory Reform Septic Systems – Best Available Technology for Removal of Nitrogen

On Monday, November 14, 2016, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE or “the Department”) finalized a regulatory action which reforms the universal requirement that Best Available Technology for Removal of Nitrogen (BAT) septic systems be installed outside the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area (Critical Area) for all new construction. Instead, the final regulation would allow the installation of conventional septic systems outside of the Critical Area. Under the proposal, BAT would still be required for large septic systems with design flow of 5,000 gallons per day or greater. Additionally, local governments would not be preempted from requiring a BAT system outside the Critical Area in order to protect public health or waters of the State.​

The Department will continue to require that all new and existing BAT systems be properly maintained and operated. Additionally, the Department will require that all BAT systems sold in the State include both a two-year operation and maintenance contract and a two-year warranty. This regulatory proposal was published in the Maryland Register on September 16, 2016, and was open for public comment for 30 days. The November 14, 2016 edition of the Maryland Register contains the Notice of Final Action on this regulatory action. The regulatory action goes into effect on November 24, 2016.

This BAT septic system regulatory reform is one part of the Department’s broader effort to meet clean water goals in the most effective, efficient, and equitable ways. The broader effort includes:

  • Reforming the BAT regulations - as described above.
  • Re-tooling inspection and enforcement efforts. The Department is committing to enhance compliance assistance and enforcement efforts with an emphasis on failing septic systems statewide.
  • Re-thinking the septics vs. sewer decisions. In many cases counties and communities are seeking financial, legal, and regulatory assistance to help connect failing septic systems to public sewer. MDE and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) will participate in a workshop for local governments and other interested parties in the coming months on opportunities for septic to sewer projects, including financial and technical assistance the Departments can offer for such efforts.


MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles:

"We are fully committed to clean water progress and meeting Chesapeake Bay goals and requirements. This is a measured step to reduce regulatory burden and build public support for a smarter and more effective septics program across the state. We are customizing the statewide requirement to meet local watershed needs more effectively while still insisting on excellent environmental results. Innovation and collaboration at the local level, rather than locking into one particular technology, will lead to more success in protecting and sustaining Maryland's precious environment. We will work hard to make sure it happens through regulatory reform, education, compliance assistance and enforcement."


Regulation – Septic Systems – Best Available Technology for Removal of Nitrogen

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