Nitrogen Reduction Act Affects New Homes in 'Critical Areas'

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (Sept. 12, 2009)—The Chesapeake Nitrogen Reduction Act of 2009 was passed by the Maryland Legislature and will take effect Oct. 1 throughout Maryland.

The new law requires that landowners within critical areas need to use "best available technology for the removal of nitrogen" when upgrading or installing an on-site sewage disposal system. The new law affects all construction of these systems begun after Oct. 1. The critical areas are defined as land within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is required to assist homeowners in paying the cost difference between a conventional on-site sewage disposal system and a nitrogen reduction system for upgrades.

The assistance would be provided with money authorized for this purpose within the Bay Restoration Fund. The fund, commonly referred to as the "flush tax," is financed by both septic owners, who pay an annual fee, and those on water and sewer systems, who pay monthly bills. Those interested must fill out an application form to qualify. For more information, go to or call 1-800-633-6101, Ext. 4195.

Statewide, 420,000 septic tank owners pay $30 a year toward the Bay Restoration Fund. The new law states that the assistance will come from the fund "if sufficient funds are available."

Those who build homes in the critical areas will have to bear the full cost of the nitrogen-reduction system. The Chesapeake Nitrogen Reduction Act of 2009 aims to reduce nitrogen in bay waters. Nitrogen, along with phosphorus, in bay waters feed the oxygen-starved algae and creates dead zones which kill oysters and drive crabs away.

This additional component must be installed if you have not procured a construction permit to install an on-site sewage disposal system and have not begun the construction of said system prior to October 1, 2009. It is important to note that the construction of the system does not have to be completed by this date, only begun.

If you are interested in obtaining your construction permit for the on-site sewage disposal system, you should contact your licensed septic contractor to submit an application on your behalf and commence the construction prior to the end of this month.

Those who violate the provisions of the new law may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 a day.

The St. Mary's County Department of Environmental Health has contacted those with building permits in process that are likely to require new septic systems in the critical area to alert them of the new law. For more information, contact the Department at 301-475-4321 and ask to speak to a sanitarian.

Source: St. Mary's County Government

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