BERLIN — The Mayor and Council approved a contract that would pay AP Croll $3.9 million for spray site addition. The company was the low bidder for a project that Town engineering consultant company URS estimated at $4 million.
The addition would complete the spray site project and is to include a lagoon with a 75 million gallon storage capacity.
Mayor Gee Williams expressed concern that the target completion date wouldn’t meet the requirements of a consent order issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for the Town’s wastewater treatment plant.
The order required the Town to completely eliminate its point source discharge and move exclusively to a spray system by Dec. 18 or potentially face fines or other penalties. Point source discharge describes pumping treated effluent into a local waterway.
Although the discharge from the current wastewater treatment plant was sufficient to meet previous standards, the deterioration of the water quality in Newport Bay and the rest of the Coastal Bays, along with the challenges presented in cleaning the Chesapeake Bay forced a tightening of restrictions that put the Berlin wastewater plant over the maximum total maximum daily load (TMDL) several years ago.
After several false starts, the Town was able to secure enough state and federal grants and loans to pay for a major upgrade that would help them meet the new TMDL requirements for both the immediate and foreseeable future.
During the few years before the spray site came on line, Town staff, led by Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter, performed a kind of balancing act, storing as much effluent as was possible to prevent stream discharge. The Town already has a spray site and the apparatus to use it, and has for years, but spraying isn’t possible at all times of the year. Frozen ground and excessive rains sometimes require the effluent to be stored for extended periods.
Because of their previous lack of storage capacity, occasionally the Town would have to relent and engage in stream discharge, sometimes drawing a fine. For the most part fines were avoided through careful management and the Town was able to keep the point source discharge to a minimum.
At last week’s meeting Kreiter expressed confidence that she and her staff would be able to meet the consent order even if for some reason the construction work fell behind and the plant was not complete by Dec. 18.
As part of the bidding process, the Town required bidders to submit a plan that included having the storage lagoon completed before the rest of the plant. Given that the Water Resources Department has already been successful with storing effluent when spraying is not possible, the addition of 75 million gallons will only make that aspect of the job easier as the rest of the system comes on line.
Construction is expected to start in the late winter or early spring and, being at the top of the list, the storage lagoon is slated to be completed before the summer but will certainly be finished well before the late fall, when the weather can prohibit spraying.