Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2010 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Smart Growth and the Pipe: Sewer Infrastructure and the Location of Residential Growth in the Baltimore Region
Beckingham, Barbara
Co-Authors: Melanie Harrison, Elizabeth Stanwyck, Olyssa Starry, Bernadette Hanlon, Justin Newcomer

Abstract: Smart Growth in Maryland aims to direct new growth to where there is existing urban infrastructure. However, little is known about how successful Marylandís policy has been at encouraging growth in areas where there is public sewer infrastructure. The purpose of this study is to determine the degree to which residential development in the Baltimore region utilizes public sewer rather than private on-site septic systems, specifically in the context of the Marylandís Priority Funding Area (PFA) policy which incentivizes growth in targeted areas with existing infrastructure. We used logistic regression analysis to identify the probability that a residential property is connected to a private septic system as a function of 1) its location inside or outside a Priority Funding Area and 2) the year the property was built. Our results indicate that residential development in designated growth areas within the five counties surrounding Baltimore City has, in general, been successfully tethered to existing sewer infrastructure. However, since passage of Marylandís PFA law, development that utilizes on-site septic systems has occurred even inside PFAs (see Figure 1). This is generally the case because some PFAs have been drawn in areas where there were no existing or planned sewer services. This is of concern because residential development with septic systems is typically low-density sprawl-like development, the type of development the state government wants to prevent. In addition, reliance on septic systems for residential development has negative environmental consequences as a non-point source for nitrogen, a major pollutant of concern in Chesapeake Bay.