Frequently Asked Questions

What is Our wAAter?

Our wAAter is a vital program that will provide long-term benefits by protecting our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay while also improving groundwater supplies and water resiliency. Led by the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) and developed with guidance from the Maryland Department of Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency, we are pursuing long-term strategies to reduce pollutants in the Bay.

Our wAAter addresses water quality while simultaneously strengthening the County's water resiliency by using an integrated approach with five initiatives:

  • Septic-to-sewer connections: Converting eligible communities from septic systems to publicly owned water reclamation facilities operating at advanced treatment levels
  • Small system upgrades: Upgrading the performance of privately owned small wastewater treatment systems where possible
  • Stormwater: Restoring streams and wetlands, and improve stormwater infrastructure
  • Groundwater resiliency: Providing an uninterrupted supply of clean, safe water
  • Wastewater treatment enhancements: Operating advanced regional water reclamation facilities at optimal performance levels to maximize pollution reduction beyond regulatory requirements

Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program

The Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program will improve water quality and public health by converting up to 6,000 private septic systems to public sewer connections over the next 30 years.

Why is it important?

Community support is needed to successfully make the change to a sewer system. Together we can improve our wAAter quality and help protect our environment.

Why are we focusing on septic systems?

Anne Arundel County has the largest pollution from septic systems among all counties in Maryland.

How will it benefit our communities?

By switching from septic to a sewer connection, you help to reduce water pollution, protect wells and surface water quality near homes, and protect our streams and rivers by utilizing treatment facilities in place of septic systems.

How do I sign up for the septic-to-sewer program?

If you live in an eligible community*, visit the County's Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program page and submit the interest form. In the meantime, talk to your neighbors about learning more about the program. Ultimately, it is a community decision whether to proceed with connecting to public sewer.

*To determine if you live in an eligible community, enter your address in the search bar on our Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program page.

How much does this cost?

Costs vary, depending on several factors. Specific costs for each community are based on density of homes and location relative to the existing sewer system. If you would like to learn more about the cost for your community, please enter your address here. If your neighborhood has already begun the pre-application process, you will be directed to your community page, which includes cost information. If your neighborhood has not started the pre-application process, you can email the program team to set up that process for your neighborhood to understand costs and impact.

Chart showing cost per year for 40 years Chart showing total costs to connect to sewer project

Capital Facility Connection Charge: This charge is collected when the building permit or connection permit is issued. It recovers the cost of constructing water reclamation facilities, pumping stations and conveyance facilities other than lateral lines.

The Capital Facility Connection Charge will be determined when the notice to proceed is issued for project construction. This is a one-time charge, or can be financed at the County's bond rate for 40 years. The financed Capital Facility Connection Charge is billed annually in January, beginning after the project is released for service. Established rates are as follows:

Notice to proceed by June 30, 2022: $ 9,351
Notice to proceed between July 1, 2022 - June 30 2023: $10,286

What is the process and how long does it take?

The process can take 3-4 years and the first step is to request a pre-application information meeting with DPW. During these meetings, DPW will explain the program in greater detail and answer questions residents have. Interested communities can then submit an application for a subsidy to reduce homeowner costs (Step 2). The information meeting and the subsidy are not binding commitments.

Chart showing Five steps to connect the community. Step one: Community requests Pre-application meeting. Step 2 Community submits application & DPW reviews. Step 3: Community submits petition to DPW. Step 4: Community votes to proceed. Step 5: DPW prepares final design & costs then constructs new system.

If a community decides to move forward, a representative may file a petition for wastewater extension on behalf of the community (Step 3). During the petition process, DPW will prepare a site-specific preliminary engineering study that includes costs for installing the public infrastructure. DPW will also prepare an estimate of the annual assessment to present to the community at a formal public meeting. Homeowners are then sent a ballot to vote for or against the project. If the majority of homeowners approve, the project will move forward to design and construction (Step 4). Once the public infrastructure work is complete, all homeowners in the project area are required to connect within nine months. A homeowner who has recently upgraded to an advanced nitrogen-reducing septic system may request an extension for connecting to the public sewer.

What happens to my septic tank?

The County requires homeowners to abandon septic systems when a property is connected to public sewer. Septic system abandonment requires the services of a licensed disposal system contractor and/or licensed liquid waste hauler. You may find detailed information on the Anne Arundel County Department of Health website.

Does DPW maintain a list of approved master plumbers?

No, DPW does not maintain a list of approved master plumbers.

Is the County mandating connecting to the public sewer?

No. The overall goal of the septic connection program is to connect 6,000 homes over the next 30 years. Since Anne Arundel County has more than 40,000 septic systems, the Department of Public Works has not identified specific communities where connections will be mandated. Projects will instead move forward through the wastewater sewer extension petition process, which is initiated by the community and requires the majority of homeowners to approve for the process to move forward.

What happens if a community votes to approve a project and a resident refuses to connect?

If a community votes to move forward with a public sewer connection project, the County code requires all residents within the project area to connect within nine months of project completion. Residents who have recently replaced their septic systems or have installed an advanced nitrogen-reducing septic system may request an exemption for the connection timeframe, but are still subject to the assessment after project completion.

Are commercial properties eligible for the program?

The features of the Septic-to Sewer Connection Program, including the subsidy and payment deferment options, apply only to residential properties with existing improvements located in an eligible wastewater extension project area.

How will connecting to a public sewer protect waterways and the Chesapeake Bay?

In dense subdivisions located close to the water, even properly operating private septic systems can release up to eight times more pollutants into the Bay than the County's water reclamation facilities. This waste contaminates our waterways, our Bay, and affects drinking water quality. When a household septic system is not properly maintained, untreated wastewater can overwhelm the drain fields and surface to the ground, polluting the water supply. Poorly treated wastewater from septic systems can end up in private drinking water wells if the system is located too close to a well.

Traditional septic systems are not as effective at removing pollution that can be delivered to the Chesapeake Bay. Treated water discharged to the Bay from the County's water reclamation facilities has about 90 percent less pollution than wastewater from traditional septic systems in the critical area. When you connect to public sewer, you protect wells and surface water near your property from human waste contamination, a potential serious public health concern.

You also reduce your impact on the health of nearby streams and rivers. Since the streams and rivers in Anne Arundel County drain into the Chesapeake Bay, your public sewer connection will, by extension, help to protect one of the nation's most iconic landscapes.

What is the difference between the Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program application
process and the petition process for water or wastewaster service extensions?

The Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program application process is specific to eligible areas as defined in the Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program. It is a pre-petition process intended to give interested eligible communities more information on potential costs and for the County to prioritize projects for the County subsidy and state funding. The application process does not commit the community or the County to moving forward with a project. Any community that submits an application and is selected for subsidy must ultimately complete the formal petition process to be connected to public sewer.

Resources

Anne Arundel County Health Department's Septic System Resources

View Website

Maryland's Phase lll Watershed Implementation Plan

View Website

Anne Arundel County Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan

View PDF Document

Glossary of Terms

View the Terms

2008 Anne Arundel County Septic (OSDS) Strategic Plan

View PDF Document

Appendix A

View PDF Document

Appendix B

View PDF Document

Appendix C

View PDF Document

Appendix D

View PDF Document

Septic Task Force

In 2008, the County completed a study that informed a strategy for converting septic systems to public sewer. Subsequent planning estimated a cost of over $1.5 billion to convert 20,000 septic systems to sewer in order to attain the pollutant level reductions outlined by the Maryland Department of the Environment at the time. Additionally, the success of the County's current septic to sewer petitioning process has been hindered by the loss of federal and state grant monies that offered funding to cover over 75% of the costs. Those grants have long since disappeared, leaving all the costs solely on the property owner, making a connection unaffordable. Given the scope and magnitude of costs along with the public policy issues associated with affordability, the County convened a task force of community and business leaders, environmental representatives, and County staff in 2018 to develop recommendations. In 2019, the Septic Task Force reconvened to:

  • Confirm the prioritization criteria for septic-to-sewer conversion areas
  • Guide the DPW's development of a conversion policy framework
  • Help define key topics for DPW Policy and Procedures
  • Advise on public outreach
  • Provide input on future legislation and legislation introduced and passed in Fall 2019
  • Develop incentives and subsidies of up to 25% to increase affordability
  • Review program funding

Read the Anne Arundel County Septic Task Force's Final Report and the related Appendix (2020).