Anne Arundel Asks Septic Users to Switch for the Sake of Clean Water

Empty household septic tank. Cleaning sludge from the sewage treatment plant.

From Krista Pounds

To limit pollution and improve water quality, Anne Arundel County is encouraging communities near the bay to switch private sewer systems to public sewers. A new Anne Arundel clean water program – called Our wAAter – has just started to protect local waterways and the bay.

More than 40,000 properties in the district use on-site sewage systems, which can seriously pollute the water. In some parts of the city near waterways, septic tanks can release up to eight times more pollutants into the bay than the district’s water treatment plants.

The program includes five initiatives: wastewater treatment improvements, septic tank-sewer connections, groundwater stability, rainwater improvements, and small-system improvements.

“In densely located sub-areas near the water, even well-maintained sewage treatment plants can release harmful pollutants into the bay,” says Chris Phipps, director of the district’s public works department. “The septic tank-sewer connection program will improve water quality and public health by converting up to 6,000 private sewage treatment plants to public sewer connections over the next 30 years, which equates to around 200 per year.”

And it’s not just about the bay. Contaminants from wastewater can even get into drinking water if the sewage treatment plants are not working properly or are too close to private drinking water wells.

“It is a municipality decision to connect to the public sewer system,” says Matt Diehl, information officer for the public works department. “Communities can request a pre-application meeting to learn more and determine if they want to submit an application.”

The Public Works Department reviews, evaluates and evaluates the applications and identifies municipalities that award grants based on certain evaluation criteria. A conceptual approach is developed and the cost is presented to these communities.

“It would then be up to the municipality to submit a formal petition for the sewage service to the public works department,” says Diehl. “Once a petition is received, the Public Works Department will proceed with pre-planning and develop fixed costs for each homeowner, taking into account the county subsidies and government funds. A majority of the homeowners must then vote to proceed with the final planning and construction. Costs can vary depending on several factors including the density of houses and location in relation to the existing sewer system. ”

The program aims to cut costs for homeowners through subsidies, deferrals and assistance with government funding. Each project is expected to take three to four years from application to completion of construction.

To see if your community is eligible for the Our wAAter program, visit and enter your address in the search bar.

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