A crash course in septic systems and how they’re damaging the environment
Even if you have a septic system in your backyard, your waste ends up in the same place as everybody else’s. The key difference is that waste flowing to a wastewater treatment plant is more likely to be treated using biological nutrient removal (BNR) technology that dramatically reduces the amount of nitrogen before discharging into a receiving waterbody (source). Your local wastewater treatment plant is also more likely to be routinely inspected and maintained than your neighbor’s septic system because there are laws that require it.
As for Governor O’Malley’s proposed ban on septic systems in new large housing developments, he’s facing some stern opposition from rural counties and building associations. Prospectors who have been holding on to agricultural land in the hope of one day selling it to a developer for big bucks are waking up to find their ship may have already sailed. New residential developments in the middle of nowhere aren’t possible without septic systems. New growth may actually be focused in existing service districts, otherwise known as Maryland’s Smart Growth areas. I thought it was funny today when a woman on WYPR (local NPR affiliate) referred to Smart Growth as something the state tried 15 years ago. Actually, we’ve been trying it every year since; it’s just experienced very marginal success. A septic system ban would be a huge step in the right direction.