Md. Legislators: Retain Bay Restoration Fees

by Dr. Linda Hanifin Bonner, Executive Director, National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Linda Hanifin Bonner, Executive Director of the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association, has issued the following public statement to Maryland Legislators who may be considering any changes or alterations to the Bay Restoration Fee enacted last year:

For septic system owners to say that the $30 “annual” fee imposed upon them is unfair –is absurd! They spend more than that each month for cable TV.
Edgewater, MD, Feb. 6, 2005--STOP this foolishness! Maryland has finally taken significant steps to establishing a sound program addressing long-standing issues of maintenance and operations of wastewater treatment plants and replacement of older septic tanks. To take any action against this bill is indeed taking giant steps backwards. It is both outrageous and contradictory for federal facilities to cry foul and request exemptions.

It is outrageous in the fact that the funds federal facilities would pay are a small part of the operating fees that in reality they should be paying. Both municipal and federal agencies for years have not been charging sufficient rates to customers to keep up with the requirements of the Clean Water Act that requires ongoing upgrades and maintenance. It is highly contradictory of federal agencies, who are supposed to be supporting enactment of their very own legislation, to want to be considered exclusive. Their managers should be falling in line to support legislative efforts for upgrades.

The fee being charged to residents on public wastewater systems is a drop in the bucket to what they should be paying for additional costs incurred over the past decades for require upgrades to wastewater treatment. For septic system owners to say that the $30 “annual” fee imposed upon them is unfair –is absurd! They spend more than that each month for cable TV. People spend more than $30.00 a month for cable TV or for a family fast food meal. I question who are the chorus of homeowners who are making these statements. In fact, NOWRA believes the Bay Restoration Act did not go far enough in its efforts of last year.

As a result, the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association is currently working with Senator John Giannetti on a legislative bill that requires members of the onsite industry to become better educated about their work and the newer onsite systems through a professional certification program to address issues such as nitrogen. This five-point proposal requires:

If we (here in MD and throughout the US) are going to be serious about improvements to waterways, then we have to be willing to make the necessary changes--both in what we pay and how we manage these efforts--to accomplish them. The technology within the onsite industry is available to ensure that these changes occur and effectively do the job. Because of Maryland's example last year with the Bay Restoration Act' at least five states are now considering similar legislation to make needed improvements.

In concert with this effort, NOWRA has embarked upon a national grass-roots legislative agenda supporting these efforts through the five-point program it is recommending in Maryland. NOWRA is currently working with the states of California, Michigan and Arizona on similar endeavors. NOWRA is also working with congressional staff to obtain additional funding to support the onsite industry needs for replacement of older septic systems, education and training programs, and research.

NOWRA strongly supports the efforts of Maryland's Governor Robert Ehrlich and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to keep this legislation intact and is willing to bring in national experts to educate Maryland legislators as to why this effort is so important, and should not be changed.

The National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) is the largest US professional organization representing the diverse member sectors within the onsite and decentralized industry. Its mission is to provide leadership and promote the onsite wastewater treatment and recycling industry through education, training, communication and quality tools to support excellence in performance. NOWRA's headquarters office is located in Edgewater, Maryland, with constituent groups located in more than 30 states throughout the US.

A Maryland chapter of NOWRA has recently been organized and has begun a state-wide education and training program for industry members, the building and realty industry, public officials, environmental organizations. Nearly 125 professionals attended the first session on advanced treatment systems in January. On March 11, a second program, on the Basics of Onsite Systems, will be held with Dr. James Converse, one of the country's leading onsite educators and practitioner. While this program is being marketed to industry professionals, developers, planners and realtors, it is also open to the public. Additional information can be obtained by contacting the NOWRA office, 410-798-1697.

Copyright © 2005 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on February 9, 2005.