Sewer hookup mandate is fair, supports future
It has been brought to my attention that many citizens are concerned about the details of the Cecil County Sanitary District Policy Memorandum No. 2: Mandatory Connection to County Sanitary Sewer System.
This policy is part of our larger effort to provide county sewer within the county’s prescribed comprehensive plan designated growth areas. Water will be provided by Artesian, and in some instances, municipalities may provide water service in these growth areas.
The County Code mandates connection to county sewer where and when it is available, but does not specify the timing or provide any flexibility to property owners. Contrary to what some seem to think, the policy as written provides flexibility and a degree of relief to property owners who currently have improvements on their property with onsite septic systems. They will have 10 years to connect, unless one of the triggering events occurs:
1. Title to the property is transferred, unless the transfer is the result of an inheritance or divorce settlement (connection must be made and the existing on-site disposal system formally abandoned within 120 calendar days of closing);
2. A building permit that requires the approval of the Health Department is issued for the renovation, expansion or construction of any structure on the property (connection must be made and the existing onsite disposal system formally abandoned prior to Health Department approval of the building permit);
3. The parcel is subdivided in any way as defined by the Cecil County Subdivision Regulations (connection must be made and the existing on-site disposal system formally abandoned prior to approval of the subdivision);
4. The Cecil County Health Department determines that the existing onsite disposal system is not failed or failing but needs to be upgraded to accommodate increased wastewater flows due, for example, to an increase in the number of bedrooms or other factors. In this instance, exceptions for inheritance or divorce as outlined in 4.a. above do not apply (connection must be made and the existing on-site disposal system formally abandoned within 120 calendar days of the Health Department’s determination or prior to closing if the property is being sold or otherwise transferred);
5. The Cecil County Health Department determines that the existing onsite sewage disposal system serving the parcel in question has failed or is failing or otherwise constitutes a health hazard (connection must be made and the existing on-site disposal system formally abandoned within 120 calendar days of the Health Department’s determination).
6. (It should be noted that all of the triggering events except for the transfer of title are mandated by state law; the policy memo merely consolidates those requirements into one easy-to read document.)
Furthermore, I recently proposed, and the Cecil County Council approved, a reduction in the sewer connection charge for residential units from $12,000 to $6,000 per ELU (Equivalent Living Unit = 80,300 gallons a year of usage.) Property owners will be able to avail themselves of this reduction within the next 30 months, or two and a half years. Furthermore, property owners can utilize our existing financing plan to pay the sewer connection charge. This plan provides for a one-third initial payment — $2,000 — with the balance being paid annually over 10 years with interest.
Providing property owners with the ability to defer connection potentially up to 10 years is intended to provide them with a degree of relief. Furthermore, connecting to sewer eliminates future costs associated with replacement or repairs of on-site septic systems as well as pump-out costs. Connecting to sewer is far better for the environment and, in most instances, increases property values.
I feel that the policy that we have developed is fair and supports the county’s Comprehensive Growth Plan, as well as enables economic growth now and into the future. This program also provides relief to property owners who will be subject to the policy. This is yet another essential step in moving the county forward.
Alan J. McCarthy (R) serves as Cecil County Executive.