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
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

Why is the Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program important?

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

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.

Chart showing water flow from septic tank to drain field
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.

AA Co makes up 9% of the population but contributes 17% of the septic pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.*
*Portions of data collected from Maryland's Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay, October 2012

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.

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 such as nitrogen into the Bay than the County's water reclamation facilities. These pollutants impact our waterways and the Bay. When a household septic system is not properly maintained, untreated or poorly treated wastewater can overwhelm the drain fields and surface to the ground, further impacting the waterways.

By conveying wastewater to advanced water reclamation facilities, public sewer systems control pollution much more effectively than septic systems and provide the highest level of wastewater treatment available.

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.

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 prompted to visit 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.

What costs are homeowners responsible for?

Project cost

The cost to construct the local sewer system is paid for in the form of an annual assessment that is paid back over 40 years. DPW is offering residents in eligible communities a subsidy of up to 25% of the total project cost. Homeowners in eligible areas also have the option to defer up to 50 percent of the payments. Typical annual assessments will range from $1,000 to $2,000 per household.

Private cost

Work on private property to provide a new sewer connection includes septic tank abandonment, piping from home to sewer cleanout, and property restoration. For most homes, the cost will be less than $10,000 and in many cases a State Bay Restoration Fund grant can be used to cover this cost.

Factors Influencing Private Costs
  • Distance from residence to public connection point
  • Configuration of plumbing to septic tank location
  • Septic tank abandonment
  • Driveway or landscaping repair
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 and can be paid up front, 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 charges are as follows:

Notice to proceed by June 30, 2022: $ 9,351
Notice to proceed between July 1, 2022 - June 30 2023: $10,286
Diagrams of the septic system on private property and the proposed new piping to homes via the public right of way. Costs for the capital facility connection charge (CFCC) are roughly charted demonstrating the majority of the cost is the construction of the local sewer system with the next largest cost as the CFCC followed by the private costs.

Are there payment exemptions for elderly and low-income residents or disabled residents?

The County code contains exemption criteria for elderly and low-income residents and disabled residents. You may find more information here.

Why don't my property taxes pay for the cost to connect to public sewer?

In Anne Arundel County, the sewer utility is an enterprise fund, which means it is paid for by users of the system. Property taxes are not used to pay for water and sewer projects.

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.

Who is responsible for repairing damage to roads during construction?

The Department of Public Works would restore any road surfaces impacted by DPW contractors.

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.

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 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.

Can my community petition for water and sewer service at the same time?

Yes, a community may petition for water and sewer service extension at the same time. DPW analyzes the requests as separate projects and residents vote on the projects separately. However, the subsidy and deferment options available through the Septic-to-Sewer Connection Program are only available for sewer projects, and not water.

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.


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

Deferment Guidelines

View the Guidelines

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).