ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- A bill to limit where residential septic systems can be installed in Maryland is before the state Senate.
Senators decided Tuesday to wait until later this week to debate the measure that creates a tiered system for evaluating where new septic systems can be placed.
The complex bill creates a system of four tiers, which will be used by local governments and the state to determine where new residential development may occur.
The system is designed to contain large developments to areas where public water and sewer systems already exist.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the bill's future is "dicey" as senators are expected to extensively debate and attempt to amend the measure.
Proponents of the legislation argue that the septic systems pollute the Chesapeake Bay with nitrogen runoff and the tiered plan will help Maryland come in line with federal directives to clean up the Bay.
Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George's, who will shepherd the bill on the floor, said limiting development will protect agricultural and forest lands, reduce sprawl and avoid tax increases.
"In terms of redirecting growth to the developed or soon to be developed areas where infrastructure already exists, where you have schools, where you have roads, where you have all those other amenities, it reduces the pressure to create and build new roads, new schools and all the other infrastructure needs, which ultimately means increased taxes," Pinsky said.
Opponents of the legislation have argued that the bill, especially in rural parts of the state, usurps local planning authority.
Farmers have also complained that it limits their ability to subdivide and profit from their land.
An initial version of the legislation introduced last year would have mandated new developments of five or more homes operate on top-grade shared septic systems.
That proposal failed to gain traction and instead was studied by a committee of lawmakers, policy experts and environmental advocates in the interim between sessions.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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