Grants to Homeowners to Upgrade Septic Systems

The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center in Grasonville is offering a monthly series of educational workshops free to the public designed to promote sustainability in the home. The Sustainable Living Series: “Workshops for the Ecologically Conscious Homeowner”, is designed to provide solutions for the homeowner on low –impact construction, remodeling, or daily home maintenance and raise awareness to the effects of suburban sprawl throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. On September 11th from 6:00pm-7:30pm Jennifer Hicks, Septic Specialist, from the Chester River Association will be speaking on how homeowners can upgrade their septic system to be friendlier to Bay water quality.

You may not be aware of it, but your home septic system may be hurting the Chesapeake Bay. There are hundreds of thousands of residential septic systems in Maryland, processing 100 million gallons of sewage daily. Properly maintained septic systems remove bacteria from sewage, and thus from groundwater. Because groundwater eventually finds its way into our waterways, septic systems are critical to keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean. But many residential systems are old and don’t work well. A failing system can leave bacteria-laden water on or near the surfaces of your yard, which ultimately drains into the bay. Actually, today’s septic systems need to do more than remove bacteria if they are to keep the Bay clean. They need to remove nitrogen as well. Nitrogen is a nutrient in sewage that flows in groundwater from septic systems into the Bay. There it contributes to algal growth, which depletes oxygen, leading to fish kills and loss of underwater grasses, which is habitat for waterfowl and crabs. Conventional septic systems were not designed to remove nitrogen. Unless a nitrogen removal unit has already been installed on your septic systems your septic system is contributing a nutrient that harms the Bay.

There is something that homeowners can do to make a positive difference to Bay water quality. As part of Maryland’s efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) now offers grants to homeowners who want to upgrade their septic systems, with a priority on homes in the Critical Area, so that they will remove at least 60% of nitrogen. The upgrades, called Best Available Technology (BAT) Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) systems can be applied for through a grant which will pay for the cost of the unit, its installation, as well as the first five years of maintenance- a value of up to $25,000. The state finances septic upgrades, just as it does cover crops for farmers, from the Bay Restoration Fund. That, in turn, is funded by the “flush tax”, which every homeowner pays annually.

To learn more about how you can have a Healthy Bay Septic System participate in the upcoming Sustainable Living Workshop at CBEC in Grasonville on September 11th from 6:00pm-7:30pm. The workshop is free but registration is required. Call 410-827-6694 to sign up for the program. Visit CBEC’s website to view the entire Sustainable Living Series schedule at