Press Release

(ST. LEONARD, MD) June 19, 2009 - Today, as part of Governor O’Malley’s “Capital for a Day” in Calvert County, Secretaries Shari T. Wilson of the Maryland Department of the Environment and Richard Hall of the Maryland Department of Planning joined Calvert County officials to highlight their work to protect the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and drinking water by upgrading septic systems to reduce nitrogen. The group also showcased the first State-owned nitrogen-removing septic system upgrade in Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard, Maryland.

“Maryland’s new, ambitious 2 year milestones to clean up the Bay and our waterways will more than double our nitrogen reduction efforts,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Septic upgrades are a key component of our on-the-ground clean-up work to restore the Bay and local waterways – and to protect our drinking water.”

Maryland has approximately 420,000 septic systems, 52,000 of which are located in the Critical Area – sensitive areas within 1,000 feet of tidal waters. Conventional septic systems do not remove nitrogen, and it is estimated that 7 percent (3.6 million pounds per year) of Maryland’s total nitrogen load comes from septic systems. Installing a septic system with nitrogen removal technology cuts a system’s nitrogen load in half. Maryland’s Bay Restoration Fund provides grants for homeowners and businesses to upgrade their systems to remove nitrogen. Maryland’s new Bay milestone goal is to upgrade at least 3,000 septic systems by 2011.

“Homeowners across the state can reduce nitrogen loads to the Bay by upgrading their septic systems,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson. “The State is doing the same, which is why we are here near

the first state-owned septic upgrade, in Calvert County. Calvert County officials have done an excellent job of getting the word out and getting pollution-reducing systems in the ground.”

“I am pleased that the State is leading by example in saving the bay by installing nitrogen-reducing septic systems here at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum,” said Secretary Richard Hall of the Maryland Department of Planning. “Based on current growth trends, MDP projects 145,000 new septic systems will be added to Maryland over the next 25 years, a 34 percent increase. Installing nutrient reduction systems, such as the one installed here, reduces pollutants entering Chesapeake Bay, rivers and our local streams by a factor of up to two times over traditional systems."

Calvert County will receive a $1,582,000 Bay Restoration Fund grant to upgrade septic systems, in addition to 2006 grant of $932,467. To date the County has awarded 102 grants for upgrades, 93 of those septic upgrades are in the Critical Area.

Legislation passed in the 2009 General Assembly session requires that beginning October 1, all replacement and new septic systems in the Critical Areas must remove nitrogen. MDE will continue to provide septic upgrade grants to homeowners and businesses, making sure funds go the farthest and those with the greatest need get the most funding. Failing systems in the critical then other failing systems remain the highest two priorities for funding.

In 2008, approximately 4,000 new and replacement systems were installed in Maryland, resulting in an increase of 24,000 pounds per year of nitrogen discharge reaching Chesapeake Bay. This annual growth on septics is the equivalent of an additional major sewage treatment plant every year (i.e. 500,000 gallons per day sewage treatment plant) with no nutrient removal technology.

By the Numbers – Maryland Septic Systems

  • 420,000 septic systems in Maryland
  • 52,000 septic systems in the Critical Area
  • Calvert County has approximately 26,376 conventional septic systems
  • 5,504 of Calvert County’s septic systems in the Critical Area
  • The average person using a septic system delivers about 9.5 lbs of nitrogen per year to the groundwater
  • Approximately 80 percent of the nitrogen from a septic system in the Critical Area will reach surface waters
  • An enhanced nutrient removal septic system will cut the system’s nitrogen load in half.