Residents in the Severna Park neighborhood of Ben Oaks have succeeded in pressuring the county to change plans for a project that would pump millions of gallons of raw sewage through a tiny sewer pumping station just a stone's throw from the Severn River.
But residents remain wary as they wait for the county Department of Public Works to provide details of the alternative plan that would bypass the Ben Oaks station altogether. Engineers said they intend to meet with the community to discuss the plan by the end of the month.
"Until we see what they're going to do, we just can't let our guard down," said Joe Boyd, who found out about the project in May when a county surveyor went to inspect the Ben Oaks pumping station located slightly more than 30 feet from his side porch. "But I have confidence that the county will do what it says it will do."
Plans call for the county Department of Public Works to increase the amount of sewage pumped through the Ben Oaks station, a small brick building, as part of an initiative to reduce the number of stations it operates. Scheduled to begin in March, the project would divert sewage from several communities on the Broadneck peninsula, in addition to sewage from Ben Oaks.
The upgrade would occur in conjunction with the construction of the Cayuga Farms Pumping Station, which would pump sewage south to the Ben Oaks station before it is eventually pumped to the Broadneck wastewater treatment plant in Arnold. The addition of Cayuga Farms would allow the county to close two other stations. The county operates 240.
Under the original plan, the Ben Oaks pumping station eventually would operate near a capacity of 1.2 million average gallons a day once the project is completed. The station now operates at an average daily flow of about 312,000 gallons. It was built to handle a peak flow of up to 3.6 millions gallons of sewage a day, county officials said.
The project is part of the county's 1979 Sewer Master Plan and is expected to be completed by June 2003.
Christopher Phipps, an engineer with the county Department of Public Works who met with residents in September, would not disclose details of the department's alternative plan until engineers meet with the community. But Bob vom Saal, co-chairman of the Ben Oaks Pumping Station Committee, said that from what he knows of the plan, the county would bypass the Ben Oaks station and run the sewage directly into the sewer force main under Benfield Boulevard.
"I think we're moving in the right direction," vom Saal said. "We want to stay on top of it. We want to see the details of what they propose. We certainly can't relax."