Md. Dept. of Environment promises stronger guidance, partnership with Wicomico County

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Wicomico County Council members say for years residents have had to jump through hoops to get approval for septic system permits. But that system could now change after council members got a chance to speak with State Secretary of the Environment. “We need to do a better job with communication. That’s communication directly with homeowners, with constituents, with builders, with local leadership,” said Secretary Ben Grumbles.

Secretary Grumbles and Wicomico County Council members agree that Tuesday night’s discussion on difficulties with septic tank permitting was productive. “Only by working together at the state and local level, and with the private sector, will we reduce the problem with failing septics, and plan on a better permitting process,” said Secretary Grumbles.

Council member John Cannon says many constituents have reached out because they often have to jump through hoops to get their septic system installed or fixed. “If someone files for a permit in October or some type of paperwork in October, they come back two or three months later and they’re asked for that same paperwork,” said Council member Cannon.

As is stands right now, to get a permit you have to go through county health department officials. However, that’s where Council member Cannon says the issue is. “When people are reaching out to the health department, they’re trying to get their issues resolved as soon as possible. They feel as if there are a lot of delays,” said Council member Cannon.

Council member Cannon says there seems to be inconsistencies in their advice versus private inspectors, who many folks turn to for a second opinion when their health department doesn’t approve their permit. He adds this can lead to lost economic opportunities, as many home builders and realtors choose to conduct business in Delaware, where the process seems to move more quickly. “If it makes it too difficult for the realtors to be able to execute the sale of a house here, it leads to frustrating. The homeowners and people who want to buy a home could easily travel,” said Council member Cannon.

During Tuesday’s discussion, council members also raised questions about how inspectors are trained, and the amount of staffing currently on hand. The Maryland Department of the Environment explained that inspectors must be approved by the state after taking approved training courses. Sometimes, those courses take place in Delaware, as opposed to within the state of Maryland. “I think the room sort of took a collective breath when they said training was in Delaware. I’m not familiar with how that training process works. But it would seem to me that if you’re working in Maryland, you should probably train in Maryland,” said Council member Cannon.

Secretary Grumbles says he sees the frustration and plans to revisit the permitting process, and how it can be improved. “One of my first actions is reaching out to Delaware’s Environment Secretary to compare notes, and see what types of rules and environmental safeguards they have,” said Secretary Grumbles.

Council member Cannon and Secretary Grumbles say they will be meeting again in the near future to keep the discussion going. Plus, they will be virtually meeting with a group of local realtors Thursday to get their take on the situation. “He came down here, which I think was a very major step in showing his dedication to this area. I’m anxious to see what the results are,” said Council member Cannon.

Categories: Local News, Maryland