By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
...County offers partial refunds for septic tank pumping
Up to 75 percent of invoice could be covered
Charles County will partially compensate residents for the cost of pumping a
septic tank as a piece of a long-term initiative to clean and preserve local and
The Planning and Growth Management Department will reimburse 50 or 75 percent
of the price of a septic tank pump out, capped at $187.50.
The program functions as a tiny component of the county’s Watershed
Implementation Plan, which is supposed to reduce pollutants that are funneled
every day into waterways statewide.
The WIP complies with state and federal mandates, including the Clean Water
Act, that dictate the highest amount of nutrients and sediments permitted
flowing into waterways, a pollutant diet dubbed total maximum daily loads.
In addition to the federally mandated total maximum daily loads allowed in
the Chesapeake Bay, the state has also approved TMDLs for Mattawoman Creek,
Patuxent River, Port Tobacco River and Zekiah Swamp Run.
Septic tanks should be pumped every three to five years, county government
spokeswoman Donna Fuqua said, adding that she does not have data that gauge if
residents historically have complied with this deadline.
“Systems that were installed prior to regulations that restrict where septic
systems can be installed tend to have higher failure rates, and instances of
polluting ground and surface waters,” she wrote in an email.
Only if the septic tank is positioned within 1,000 feet of tidal waters, a
boundary designated the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, will the county reimburse
75 percent of a bill. Other residents will be repaid 50 percent of the pumping
County officials investigated five local contractors and found the average
price of a pumping was $250, with 75 percent of that number being $187.50.
Officials have allocated $50,000 for reimbursements for fiscal 2015.
The county’s WIP was finalized in February 2013 and contains milestones the
county must attain by 2015. For septic systems, the 2015 goals include studying
the viability of a pump-out ordinance in December 2014 and completing sewer
connection projects in White Plains, Benedict and Hughesville, for which county
officials have not yet determined a target date, according to a document
submitted from the county to the state Department of the Environment.
MDE also has issued a tentative permit to the county government, the
Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit — MS4 — which will enact yet
undetermined penalties should the county fail to develop and execute plans to
reduce stormwater waste, among other initiatives. A public hearing will be held
Sept. 4 in the county government building in La Plata to review the MDE
In February 2012, the county WIP faced condemnation from environmentalist
organization — the Choose Clean Water Coalition, and the Sierra Cub — which
derided the plan as weak and unformed. Jim Long, president of the Mattawoman
Watershed Society, said he’s concerned the county is enforcing the TMLDs
inadequately, particularly concerning local waterways.
“The problem is land use. When you convert forest to urbanization, you end
up increasing pollutant load. The county doesn’t care in any real way because
there’s no consequences,” he said.
The MS4 permit might be a possible solution, he said.
County residents may print the application from the county’s website. Fuqua
estimated a two-month turnaround after a resident applies.
To apply for reimbursement in the septic pump-out program, residents
are required to complete an application, attach the contractor’s
invoice and proof of payment and mail to Charles County Government
Department of Planning and Growth Management, P.O. Box 2150, La Plata,
To view the application, go to www.charlescountymd.gov/sites/default/files/pgm/planning/septicpump_reimburse_app.pdf.
Upon receipt of the application, the pump-out receipt and property location
will be verified before a check is dispersed. Properties with septic
systems are eligible for reimbursement of pump-outs once every three
years. The maximum reimbursement amount per pump-out is
For more information,
contact Rachel O’Shea at 301-396-5237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.