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List of State Officials - Robert (Bob) L. Ehrlich Jr, Governor; Michael S. Steele, Lt. Governor; Kendl P. Philbrick, MDE Secretary 

Volume II, Number 9

 February 2007

eMDE is a monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. 

Report from the Field: Bay Restoration Fund-Onsite Sewage Disposal Systems Process

By John Boris, Water Management Administration

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With collection of the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) beginning last October from onsite sewage disposal systems (OSDS) users, MDE has begun to realize challenges in implementing this program. These challenges include identifying Best Available Technologies, developing (BAT, developing appropriate levels of operation and management to assure long-term performance of nitrogen removing systems. Currently, three full time employees are dedicated to the OSDS portion of the BRF: John Boris, Mary Dela Dewa and Shan Abeywickrama. In addition, Jay Prager and the staff of the Onsite Systems Division & State Groundwater Discharge Permits Division assist as needed. As the BRF staff’s job duties are becoming more defined each day, the staff continues to work together to meet program goals.

Earlier in the 2006, an update of the overwhelmingly popular onsite systems educational video entitled Onsite Sewage Disposal Systems-Protecting Your System, Preserving the Bay was released. To date, an estimated 5,000 copies of this program were distributed and more requests come in each day. This is an early success story for a young program’s tenure. Anyone may obtain a copy of this DVD by calling the Bay Restoration Hotline at (410) 537-4195.

The number of systems in Maryland, estimated from Department of Planning data, is now over 421,000. These systems serve approximately 20% Maryland’s population. The challenge in the beginning was laid upon local billing authorities to figure out which properties were served by OSDS.

Up to the Challenge

Working with Maryland Department of Planning and the State Department of Assessment and Taxation the counties proved up to the challenge as all but 3 counties billed their OSDS users by January 1, 2006. Armed with the billing information, Mary Dela Dewa, our natural resources planner, was charged with the task of incorporating it into an updated OSDS GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database that will show accurate locations, system type, effluent quality (when available), and other important data sets for all OSDS in the State. The importance of this data in the future will prove invaluable in Maryland’s continued efforts to meet the Chesapeake Bay 2000 (CB2K) Agreement. Meetings with GIS representatives from the academic and private sectors are ongoing to develop this database.

Enter the BAT crew: or, Upgrading to Best Available Technologies
The most important goal of the BRF is to help upgrade conventional septic systems to BAT (queue the “Batman” theme) for nitrogen reduction. With many manufactured units on the market today, their performance shows mixed results in ability to produce a noticeable reduction in nitrogen. Shan Abeywickrama, MDE’s Water Resources Engineer is heading up the BAT Review Team (BRT) in determining which unit’s are BRF grant eligible. The team consists of two other engineers from MDE and a local Environmental Health Director. In the beginning, test results from an EPA verification program were taken and method devised with good baseline numbers to establish a verification protocol. This occurred during a meeting with stakeholders, and created an agreed-upon way of measuring performance. As a result of the detailed product reviews of the BRT, we have found that a new process needs to be established. As changes are made along the way, the result may require the stakeholder group reconvene and deal with the questions pertaining to sampling procedures and protocol. A cooperative efforts was made by the last meeting attendees, included unit manufacturers, local environmental health personnel, industry representatives, and members from other MDE administrations.

On December 6, 2006, the Board of Public Works approved $9 million worth of projects to 10 jurisdictions. These funds will be used for costs associated with OSDS to remove nitrogen. Individuals in jurisdictions not funded under this package may apply directly to MDE for funding.

Restoration Implementation Meetings

There are many pre-implementation meetings being held within jurisdictions and associated local outreach events. One such event, held in early November in Centreville, MD promoted the Corsica River Watershed Restoration plan. It outlined OSDS as part of an integrated management approach to watershed restoration. With assistance from the Environmental Restoration & Protection Program Monitoring Group in the Technical and Regulatory Services Administration, we gather more information daily on OSDS impacts on Maryland’s water resources. We are currently assessing how, through financial assistance from the BRF, we can begin restoring not only the Chesapeake Bay but also all of Maryland’s streams and rivers with have poor water quality due to high nutrient loads.

The Hotline

Finally, if you are on a septic system and wish to be considered for an upgrade or if you want to schedule the BRF Team to attend a function to discuss the program, please call the Bay Restoration Hotline at (410) 537-4195.


©2007 Copyright MDE

Editorial Board
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230