By Daniel Menefee

Toilet (Photo by ex.libris. Creative Commons license)

(Photo by ex.libris. Creative Commons license)

CORRECTION: Many homes on public water and sewer in Maryland could see their flush tax almost quadruple triple   to over $117 a year for the Bay Restoration Fund — much higher than homes on septic systems, which would see the fee double to a $60 cap under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed consumption-based tax. (Original calculation was incorrect.)

Howard County Deputy Chief of Utilities Jeff Welty said that under the proposal, homes on public water in the Baltimore-Washington suburbs would be the largest contributors to the Bay Restoration Fund through the flush tax. The proposal caps the flush tax on homes on septic at $5 per month, or $60 annually.

The O’Malley administration has said that a consumption-based tax would lower the monthly payment below the current $2.50 to $1.80 for a “low-end user” — a household using less than 2,000 gallons per month — such as a single person living at 1600 W. North Ave. in Baltimore, for instance, the governor has said.

The fee would increase to over $9 a month for “high-end users” — households using 8,000 gallons or more per month.

Usage levels called too conservative

Utility managers think these usage levels are too conservative and push average water users to the top of the scale.

Chestertown Utilities Manager Robert Sipes said someone who uses 8,000 gallons a month “is not necessarily a high-end user.” A family of three or four could easily exceed 8,000 gallons per month, with their flush taxes “exceed[ing] the $5 cap applied to septic users significantly. It would essentially triple the current flush tax for a couple with two kids on public water.”

The American Water Works Association reports that an average person uses 70 gallons of water each day. Using this formula, a household of four would use 8,400 gallons of water per month. CORRECTION: The governor’s proposal would increase this household’s tax from the current $30 to $117 $106.

Maryland municipal utility officials said their average home with two to three people uses about 5,000 gallons of water a month. Under O’Malley’s proposal, the flush tax from these homes would be higher, with those on city water paying $5.55 a month.

Residents of Maryland’s suburban counties would be paying the higher fees all around. Welty said average residential use in Howard County is 5,200 gallons. Harford County residents average 5,400 gallons, according to the county’s website. Officials in Elkton in Cecil County report nearly 60% of residential homes use more than 9,000 gallons per month. Under O’Malley’s proposal, this group of Elkton homes would pay $127 annually.