Westminster receives grant for improvements at plant Wastewater facility will get upgraded tanks

September 03, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The state Board of Public Works awarded Westminster a $925,000 grant yesterday to upgrade the city's wastewater treatment plant.

The funds will be disbursed by the Maryland Department of the Environment to help pay for a new wastewater tank, called a clarifier, and for modifications to the city's existing tanks, said Quentin Banks, spokesman for the agency.

The new technology will remove biological nutrients from the 5 million gallons of sewage treated there daily, using microbes to convert nitrogen in the water to an inert gas. Work on the upgrade is scheduled to begin this fall.

The upgrade will take 18 to 24 months to complete and is expected to cost about $3.6 million, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works.

Westminster and the state Department of the Environment are sharing the financial burden, with each paying for half of the work. The state has contributed $1.3 million in grants to the project.

"Additional funding will be available when it is needed," said Banks. "To help out as many counties and jurisdictions as possible, we give out money in increments."

Westminster's wastewater treatment plant is one of 59 facilities in the state that have been improved, or are in the process of being upgraded, to include biological nutrient-removal technology. Maryland is home to 65 wastewater treatment plants.

The effluent that leaves Westminster's wastewater treatment plant flows into Little Pipe Creek and wends its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Since the early 1980s, scientists have said that nutrients -- such as nitrogen and phosphorus -- washing into the bay promote algae growth. The higher levels of algae block sunlight from grasses and plants growing at the bottom of the bay.

When these bottom plants die, bay fish and animals lose food and shelter, and they fail.

In an effort to stem such problems, state officials in 1987 agreed to try to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Chesapeake by 40 percent from their 1985 levels. To meet that goal by 2000, the state has for the past several years provided funding to municipalities to upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities.

But such improvements are voluntary. Though state law requires all raw sewage to be treated, biological nutrient-removal technology is not mandatory.

"If this technology were installed at every treatment plant, we'd be well on the way to meeting our goal," said Banks.

Since 1987, nitrogen and phosphorus levels have been reduced by about 30 percent from their 1985 levels.

The upgrade to Westminster's wastewater treatment plant is the largest construction project to be undertaken by the city in the past three years, Beyard said.

"Most people don't associate Westminster with the Chesapeake because we're so far away from the bay," Beyard said. "But when you talk about cleaning up the bay, you're talking about cleaning up the streams here in Westminster."

Three of the 10 Chesapeake Bay watersheds have portions within Carroll County. The Upper Potomac watershed stretches west to Garrett County from Parrs Ridge, which divides Carroll diagonally from the Manchester area to Mount Airy.

Carroll County water that ends up in the Patapsco/Back River basin south of Baltimore flows from the eastern half of Parrs Ridge and the southern sections of the county.

The Upper Western Shore watershed includes the northeastern corner of Carroll County around Manchester and Lineboro.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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