For 80 percent of Maryland residents, when we flush the toilet, the waste gets treated in a sewage plant to protect the Chesapeake Bay. State taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the state’s largest sewage plants with state-of-the-art technology.
But 20 percent of state households – mostly those in rural areas – use a far more primitive waste disposal system: A septic tank. They are basically pits underground that are designed to slowly leak pollutants into the groundwater and nearby streams.
Septic tanks were not much of a problem when they served a few scattered farmhouses. But then developers began building whole cities of McMansions out in rural areas linked to these old fashioned, leaky waste pits. And that meant more pollution oozing into the bay.
Four years ago, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration imposed regulations to help address this problem. The rules mandate that any new homes built in areas not served by sewage treatment plants need to install septic systems with the best available nitrogen removal technology, which can cost $10,000 per house.
When Republican Governor Larry Hogan took office last year, real estate developers and their allies in rural county governments complained that the additional costs were hurting profits and suppressing the sales of new homes in places like Carroll and Frederick counties. On so on Monday, the Hogan administration responded by revoking O’Malley’s rule.