Q&A - Guidance for Implementing SB 554 Chesapeake Bay Nitrogen Reduction Act of 2009 and The Bay Restoration Fund
What are the requirements of SB 554?
SB 554 requires that on property owned in the Critical Area, all onsite sewage disposal systems (OSDS) serving newly constructed buildings and all replacement OSDS include the best available technology for removing nitrogen (BAT). In those circumstances where a residence or other building is being altered and the Approving Authority determines that the existing OSDS is not adequate to serve the proposed altered building, BAT is necessary. In those circumstances where a residence or other building is being altered and the Approving Authority determines that the existing OSDS is adequate to serve the proposed altered building, a BAT upgrade is not required.
Minor repairs to an OSDS such as a clogged or broken pipe do not require a BAT upgrade.
What is the Critical Area?
The Critical Area includes all lands within 1,000 feet of the mean high water line of tidal waters or wetlands of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and their tidal tributaries.
Why this emphasis on Critical Area?
The Department estimates that 80 percent of the nitrogen leaving a septic system in the Critical Area reaches surface water while 30 percent of the nitrogen from a septic system greater than 1,000 feet for any surface water actually reaches surface water.
What if only part of a property is in the Critical Area?
If any part of the building served by the sewage disposal system, the sewage disposal system or sewage disposal reserve area is in the Critical Area then the provisions of SB 554 apply.
What constitutes a BAT?
Best Available Technology for Nitrogen Removal (BAT) means an OSDS nitrogen removal system approved for use and funding in the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF).
A list of approved BAT systems can be found here.
Information on the BAT approval process can be found here.
What financial assistance is available?
Based on the availability of funds in accordance with the Annotated Code of Maryland, the BRF can pay for the cost difference between a traditional system and one that includes BAT. The Annotated Code specifies that grants can be made for up to 100 percent of the BAT cost, with priority first given to failing systems and holding tanks located in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area and then to failing systems that the Department determines are a threat to public health or water quality.
Additional financial assistance may be available though the following programs:
Maryland Housing Rehabilitation Program
MDE’s Linked Deposit Program
What is a failing OSDS?
For the purpose of prioritizing BRF awards, the Department considers an OSDS to be failing when the continued operation of the system presents an imminent threat to public health. There is either the possibility of human contact with sewage through a system that directly discharges to the ground surface, surface water or backs up into a building or the system has been identified as contaminating a specific drinking water supply.
In those circumstances where a private inspector determines a septic system is failing as part of a property transfer inspection, the system will be given the same priority as a failing system provided the disposal portion of the system is actually replaced.
How will Bay Restoration Fund grants be disbursed?
Bay Restoration Fund is now being administered by the local respected county Environmental Health Department/ Program or a third party affiliate. For a list of the contact for each county; click here
What is the status of Bay Restoration Fund grant availability?
The following prioritization applies:
· Failing Onsite Sewage Disposal System (OSDS) or holding tanks in the critical area
· Failing OSDS or holding tanks not in the critical area
· Non-failing OSDS in the critical area
· Non-failing OSDS outside the critical area
What are the requirements for Operation and Maintenance (O&M)?
As a condition of being approved as a BAT in Maryland, the upfront cost of a BAT is to include five years of operation and maintenance.
For this five-year period, each BAT system shall be inspected and have necessary operation and maintenance performed by a certified service provider at a minimum of once per year but at least at the frequency the manufacturer or engineer
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