Commissioners focus on treatment plant

County official offers 2 possibilities for Key

April 14, 1999|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Now that the county has control of the wastewater treatment plant at Francis Scott Key High School, it is trying to move quickly to get the nonfunctioning facility working.

In a session with county commissioners yesterday,Michael Evans, county public works director, presented two possibilities for the problem-ridden plant: a different site than the school system had chosen to discharge the liquid portion of the sewage, and a proposal for treating that liquid so that it could be used for crop irrigation.

Either way, Evans estimated it could be at least a year before the school's plant is handling the sewage, which is being hauled daily to Westminster's treatment plant, at a cost of about $110,000 a year.

The county has chosen a site at Route 75 and Ladiesburg Road for discharging the effluent into Little Pipe Creek.

"I think it's suitable and permitable, but we have to have a [state] discharge permit," a process that takes at least six months, longer if residents raise objections, Evans said.

That proposal, which would include laying pipe, would cost $170,000, according to county estimates. The project would take about 18 months to complete, and the county would have to continue to pay to have sewage hauled during that time. The cost would be $162,000.

The county is also considering a process by which the liquid residue is treated so that all the bacteria are killed and the residue is then used for irrigation through a variety of systems. In either approach, the solid part of the waste is compacted and buried in a landfill.

Proposal requested

At the direction of the commissioners, Evans has asked Dave Duree of Advanced Systems to draw up a proposal on the second solution, a variant of which is used by the town of Manchester. Evans said he "is in the dark" about what this would cost, but expected the proposal this week.

Then, "we want to spend at least a week looking at possible solutions," before coming back to the commissioners with a presentation and perhaps recommendations, he said.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier recommended that if treating the effluent for irrigation seems feasible, the commissioners would likely want to seek bids from other companies.

This process also would require a discharge permit, and "we are not building anything until we have a permit," Evans said. However, it would not require laying pipe so it could be operational sooner.

Not having required permits is how the school system -- and now the county -- got into this situation.

No permits

As part of a $16 million expansion at the high school, officials built the $800,000 plant last year to replace the school's aging septic system. However, they did not have a construction or discharge permit. And neighbors scuttled a plan to discharge the effluent across neighboring properties to Little Pipe Creek -- a point closer to the school than the one the county is proposing.

School officials could face steep fines for defying state regulations, and lawsuits brought by residents who want the plant dismantled.

They agreed last week to shift responsibility for getting the wastewater plant operating to the county. After the commissioners' work session, Evans met yesterday with school officials.

"We talked about how to make a smooth transfer," he said.

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