Sewer Design is responsible for the design and the review of improvement projects for the Baltimore County metropolitan wastewater system. This section also:
- Designs and reviews collection systems for residential and commercial areas
- Evaluates and assesses the system to ensure that capacity exists to handle discharges that protects the health and safety of the public
- Designs and reviews pumping stations and major interceptors that carry wastewater to the two major treatment plants
- Manages availability of capital funds for the rehabilitation, repair and replacement of sewer lines and the upgrade of pumping stations
- Responsible for the design of sewer system improvements established in the Consent Decree
About Septic Systems
A modern septic system is composed of a large tank (usually 1,500 gallons) that accepts all wastewater from the house, in which solids settle to the bottom and the liquid or effluent flows from the tank to drain fields or dry wells (also called seepage pits) that are designed to allow the effluent to be absorbed into the soil. The soil acts as a natural filter that is capable of removing pathogenic bacteria and viruses from the wastewater as it percolates down to the groundwater system. We know from testing and experience that septic systems, properly sited and designed, do an excellent job of effectively and safely disposing of domestic wastes.
It is not a given that every property can safely and effectively accommodate a septic system, which is why we require testing of every property where new construction or significant additions, or changes in use are proposed. Unfortunately, many properties were developed on unsuitable soils prior to the early 1970s, when regulations concerning septic systems were put into place. In the cases where we discover a septic system failure (effluent at the surface or discharging directly to the ground water), we try to work with the property owner as best we can to correct the failure and still comply with the regulations. Septic system failures are a human health and environmental concern.
Upon request, EPS conducts sanitary surveys by performing a house-to-house inspection of each septic system. Indications of a failing septic system include:
The results of a particular survey may depend on the season, the weather, the amount of water used immediately prior to the inspection (e.g., laundry day) and the cooperation of the residents.
- Observable discharge to the surface
- Overflow pipes from laundry or the septic system to the ground, ditch or stream
- Elevated sewage levels in dry wells
- Observable odors
- Use of holding tanks
- Shallow ground water conditions as evidenced by springs or nearby water bodies
- Lush grass growth over septic system components
- Reports from the homeowner of sewage backups, the need for frequent pumpouts or intermittent discharge to the surface
In many cases, we are able to find an onsite solution to a septic failure. In some cases we cannot, and the only solutions are a holding tank or extending public sewer to the area in question.
A holding tank is when all wastes generated are drained to and held in a tank with no outlet. All wastes must be pumped on a regular basis by a licensed septic waste hauler and ultimately discharged to a public sewer or public wastewater treatment system. Due to the high cost of pumping out these holding tanks and the temptation by the property owner to illegally discharge these wastes to save money, we view holding tanks as a true last resort option. In making a recommendation as to whether public sewer ought to be extended for a given area, EPS takes into consideration a variety of factors, including the:
- Observed failure rate
- Known soil conditions
- Size of the lots
- Distance and location of existing public sewer
- Likelihood and relative costs of making suitable onsite corrections
It is rare that we are able to observe a 100 percent failure rate during a particular survey, and there is no minimum percentage of failures that triggers an automatic recommendation to extend public sewer. However, EPS tries to assess the overall impact to the community/environment as a whole when making a recommendation.
The County offers the following services for qualifying systems.
When an application is made to install a new septic system or repair an existing system, EPS looks for two general criteria to be met:
- The soils must be suitable to allow a septic system to function hydraulically (i.e., the soils must be permeable or be able to accept water)
- The soils must be of sufficient texture, structure, depth and aerial extent to properly renovate (or clean) the wastewater
The County will clean from the first accessible cleanout that is within 50 feet of the property line out to the County main sewer line. The County uses a standpipe or cleanout pipe in your yard, cleaning from that pipe to the main, going with the flow of water. It did not become a building code requirement to have this pipe until the mid-1970s. If you do not have an outside cleanout, the County cannot clean your line.
The County will make repairs:
- To the sewer system—As needed and only to the portion of the house connection that is in the public right-of-way. Anything inside the property boundary is the property owner's responsibility.
- To grinder pumps—That are part of a Baltimore County constructed project. Each grinder pump has an audio-visual alarm mounted onto the house. If a failure occurs, the homeowner can turn off the audio alarm, but not the visual alarm. The homeowner can call 410-887-0000, 24 hours a day, to report the failure. County personnel will repair/replace the grinder pump or electrical components and reset the alarm.
Extending Public Sewer via a Health Project
Unlike other utilities such as power and cable, sewer extensions are generally not economically feasible unless the cost is shared by all of the property owners. Therefore, if EPS recommends that public sewer be extended for health reasons and the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) agrees to do so, all homeowners that have access (property frontage) to the new sewer line—even if their septic system is not failing at that time—are required to connect to the system when it becomes available. The legal authority for the County to extend public sewer for the protection of public health is specified in the Baltimore County Code 20-2-102.
Generally speaking, it will take one to three years for the project to be completed. This could be longer based on the scope of the project, and the complexity of the environmental constraints and property acquisitions. Time to project completion is dependent on a variety of factors including the:
- Availability of funds to pay for and finance the project
- Cooperation of property owners with obtaining rights-of-way
- Number of other competing sewer extension and improvement projects
It is the homeowner’s responsibility to continue to maintain a septic system in such a manner that it does not cause an immediate public health threat or nuisance throughout the duration of the project. This may involve having the septic system pumped at a frequency necessary to prevent the overflow of sewage to the ground surface.
About the Process
The Sewer Design Section is responsible for the design of the project and coordinates:
- Field Surveys—Establish the topography, property lines and location of existing utilities, structures, roads and property lines necessary for the design
- Engineering Design—The project will be designed in the most cost effective way, taking into consideration the depth and location of waste lines leaving each house/existing public sewer
- Environmental Permitting—Environmental permits may be needed from the County and possibly State and Federal regulatory agencies
- Land Acquisition—The design may require property rights (easements) from private properties. The design plans are be sent to Real Estate Compliance to ensure that the County obtains the necessary legal rights-of-way to construct the sewer. The time it takes for this step for this process is largely dependent on the level of cooperation received from individual property owners.
Once the design is complete, permits are obtained, and legal rights to enter private properties are secured, the project will be advertised to qualified contractors to bid on the project. The lowest responsive and responsible bidder is awarded the contract to build the project as designed.
Based on the lowest bid, the cost allocation for each property owner will be determined by Metropolitan District Financing and Petitions. The formulas used to calculate these costs are in accordance with Baltimore County Code 20-3-101 through 220 and DPWT policy. Each property owner will be sent information in the mail detailing the costs for their property along with the date, time and location of a public meeting where they can come to have specific questions addressed.
It should be noted that because sewer is being extended as a “Health Project” the County offers residential properties 40-year financing for the construction, connection and deficit costs, including the plumber’s bill. These loans are treated as assumable liens on the property and the liens are not required to be paid off at property transfer. There is an option to defer payments for property owners that are 60 years or older and approved for a Homeowner’s Tax Credit based on income. Disabled taxpayers may also qualify.
Specific details about how costs are calculated and the financial options available are explained at the public meeting. Subsequent to the public meeting, DPWT will send a request to the County Council to approve the use of County funds to construct the project.
Following County Council approval, the lowest bid contractor will be awarded the job and the work will be scheduled. County inspectors will be onsite during the construction to ensure that the sewer is installed as designed and coordinate with the contractor to address any property owner concerns.
Upon completion of the sewer project, all property owners will be sent a notification that they must connect to the public system and abandon their existing septic systems within one year, unless ordered by EPS to do so sooner.
Learn who to contact regarding the following:
|Deferral Information||Phone: 410-887-4100|
|Developer Jobs||Phone: 410-887-3751|
|Financial Assistance||Phone: 410-887-3124|
|Land Acquisition Status||Phone: 410-887-3280|
|Sewer Project Status|
Learn more about the following topics.
Baltimore County is performing a comprehensive evaluation of the Jones Falls Sewershed. The study began in 2020 and includes assessments of the condition of the system assets and an evaluation of the sewer capacity over an extended planning horizon. The entire study is expected to take 3.5 years to complete. Newsletters detailing the progress of this study are found here.
If your sewer is blocked, stop using any water in the house, such as sinks, showers, washing machines and dishwashers. If water cannot get through your house connection lateral line to the main sewer line in the street, it will back up into your house.
To prevent this, keep fats, oils and grease (FOG) out of the sewer system. Grease coats the inside of the sewer lines in your home and clogs the pipes in your line and the sewer line in the street.
The Sanitary Sewer System Consent Decree was brought forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) against Baltimore County to force upgrades to the aging sewer infrastructure. This was necessary for compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Maryland water pollution control laws with the goal of eliminating sanitary sewer overflows.
After three years of negotiations, it has an effective "Date of Entry" of September 20, 2005. The Consent Decree outlines the agreed upon work (capital, equipment and operations improvements over multiple years) with deadlines necessary.
Following are recent reports required under the provision of the Consent Decree.
- Calendar 2022 Annual Report
- Fourth Quarter Calendar 2022 Report
- Third Quarter Calendar 2022 Report
- Second Quarter Calendar 2022 Report
- First Quarter Calendar 2022 Report
- Calendar 2021 Annual Report
- Fourth Quarter Calendar 2021 Report
- Third Quarter Calendar 2021 Report
- Second Quarter Calendar 2021 Report
- First Quarter Calendar 2021 Report
- Calendar 2020 Annual Report
- Fourth Quarter Calendar 2020 Report
- Third Quarter Calendar 2020 Report
- Second Quarter Calendar 2020 Report
- First Quarter Calendar 2020 Report
- Calendar 2019 Annual Report
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 10B
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 16A
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 16B
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 17A
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 17B
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 22A
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 22B
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 23A
- 2019 Flow Monitoring Map 23B
- 2019 Map Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Basements 103
- 2019 Map Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Basements 112
- 2019 Map Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Basements 115
- 2019 Map Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Basements 117
- 2019 Map Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Basements 136
- 2019 Map Full County Rain Gauges
- 2019 Sewershed Map
- Consent Decree Appendix
- Fourth Quarter Calendar 2019 Report
- Third Quarter Calendar 2019 Report
- Second Quarter Calendar 2019 Report
- First Quarter Calendar 2019 Report