What is an EDU, anyway?
As the discussion continues over the future of Heron Park in Berlin and the parcels within it that are or could be for sale, the big snag in the process seems always to come down to who gets the EDUs attached to a specific piece of land.
The general public and many officials may be excused for not understanding the overall nature of an EDU, because it is complicated scientifically, financially and legally.
First, it is an acronym for Equivalent Dwelling Unit, which is the name for a water consumption unit of measure that is calculated by water and environmental engineers using a mathematical formula based on years of observation and studies.
The general assumption by the Maryland Department of Environment is that the average household (dwelling unit) will use and discharge not more than 250 gallons of water per day.
The Department of Environment uses that measurement to determine how many equivalent units a wastewater treatment plant can handle given its total capacity to process and discharge wastewater safely. The department then tells the plant’s owner — in this case the town — how many EDUs it is allowed to issue.
And that’s when the fun begins, because, as the adage goes, development goes where the sewer flows.
When a property owner acquires an EDU for an undeveloped piece of ground, that person is buying access to the treatment system for an upfront connection charge followed by monthly payments to, in Berlin’s instance, the Wastewater Enterprise Fund.
Generally, that EDU remains assigned to that property no matter who the owner is as long as the monthly payments are maintained.
If the EDU is not being used, it can be transferred to another parcel owned by the same individual, or turned back into the town for use elsewhere if needed. Otherwise, it stays with and adds value to the property, since it allows the property to be used for its original purpose or developed into something else.
That’s why the Town of Berlin is paying the sewer fees to the Wastewater Fund for the 37 EDUs assigned to Parcel 57 of the former poultry processing plant’s location. Those payments might be looked on as a sewer availability fee.
So, one might ask, how can the town pay itself for something it already owns?
As is standard accounting practice, the town takes money from the general fund, which might be referred to as its checking account, and deposits it in the Wastewater Fund, a separate and protected account created so the wastewater treatment operation can be run like an independent service-providing business.
In this instance, the town is just another customer of the nonprofit service provider, and if it didn’t pay the fees on those EDUs and didn’t reassign or sell them to another user, the Wastewater Fund would have to make up the difference elsewhere to continue to break even.
Still don’t quite get it? Try this: an EDU is a way to keep track of what’s going down the drain, where, and by whom.