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Environmental Health – Building Permits

The Health Department and Building Permits

Building permits are circulated through a number of agencies including the Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health. Our Bureau reviews building permits with the following issues in mind: Water supply, wastewater disposal, food service, and other matters pertinent to the Maryland Department of the Environment (e.g., Air quality, industrial discharge) and the Maryland Department of Health (e.g., Assisted living, public swimming pools, camps).

Private wells – For properties served by a private well, the water supply issue is fairly straightforward. The well must meet State construction standards and must provide adequate and safe water for human consumption. Also, adequate separation between proposed construction and the existing well must be maintained.

Private septic – For properties served by individual septic systems, our office must consider the system itself as well as whether there is area available to replace that system in the future. This is more relevant on projects that will result in increased wastewater flows such as adding a bedroom or expanding a commercial use. In those cases, it is generally necessary to install a new system adequate for the increase. It may also be necessary to establish area for future replacement systems. For properties developed in the last 30 or so years, there is typically an approved sewage disposal area which may satisfy this requirement. For all properties, future repair area must be delineated in accordance with all pertinent regulations and policy. Often this will require conducting percolation tests. Also, adequate separation between proposed construction and the existing system along with the approved replacement area must be maintained. In general, a sewage disposal area cannot be occupied by any structure.

Public water or sewerage systems – For properties served by a public water supply or wastewater treatment system, those systems must have adequate capacity for whatever is proposed. From time to time, a municipality may be under a consent agreement with Maryland Department of the Environment requiring an additional step in the review process.

Food service – Plans and specifications for any proposed food service facility must be submitted to the Health Department for review and approval.  Chain-type operations may have a unit plan approved by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Other Agencies – Certain projects are subject to Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) or Maryland Department of Health (MDH) requirements. MDE approval is required for projects including but not limited to incinerators, solid waste facilities, body shops, and uses generating industrial discharges. MDH-regulated projects include but are not limited to food processors, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, camps, and public swimming pools.

Health Department requirements for the following projects are addressed in specific policy memorandums: Homes, Additions, Accessory Dwelling Units, Decks, Sheds, Swimming Pools.

Other resources:

Building Permit/Use and Occupancy Checklist