Friday, July 9–Improved Berlin Plant To Feature Green Initiatives

SNOW HILL – Berlin’s improved and expanded wastewater treatment plant will be as environmentally

friendly as the town can make it, in accordance with the town’s recent
commitment to be as green as possible.

“Once
it’s completed, it will be state-of-the-art enhanced nutrient removal, which is
the most advanced technology there is,” said Berlin Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter.

The
town will also move entirely to spray irrigation to dispose of the highly
treated sewage from the upgraded wastewater plant. Berlin was the first
wastewater system in Worcester
County to use spray irrigation,
on a site in Libertytown, but that site cannot handle the expanded capacity.

“Not
a drop will be going into the coastal bays. I think that’s a huge shot in the
arm for Berlin in terms of being environmentally friendly,” said Kreiter.

The
improved plant will use ultraviolet radiation to disinfect effluent instead of
using harmful chlorine to kill bacteria, the pre-improvement practice.

“Chlorine
is highly toxic to all things so we’re moving away from that,” Kreiter said.

Ultraviolet
is definitely the way to go, she said.

“It
doesn’t leave a residue that can be hurtful to anybody or anything. We’re extremely
pleased with that,” said Kreiter.

While
the sludge drying beds haven’t even been started yet during this construction
process, Kreiter foresees a day when the town’s dried sewer sludge is reused in
a variety of ways, from industry to farming, keeping the leftover solids out of
the county landfill, and essentially
recycling the former waste material into something useful.

One
way that dried sewer sludge, also known as bio-solids, could be recycled is
through the concrete industry, which sometimes uses dried sludge as fuel in the
concrete making process. The leftover ash from burning the sludge can then be
further recycled and used as a concrete component.

Using
sludge as a fuel reduces the carbon
footprint of the concrete process, Kreiter said.

“It’s
really a green technology,” she said. “We’re not creating more carbon, just
reusing what we have.”

Berlin
will really have to market its dried sewer sludge to regional concrete
manufacturers, however, since few concrete makers on the shore use sewage sludge
as fuel yet, said Kreiter.

The sludge could also be used
as an alternate fuel in other arenas, she
pointed out. Agriculture sometimes uses biosolids.

The
most highly treated sludge is bagged and sold to people like mulch.

“That’s
very highly regulated and you have to maintain some very strict standards,”
Kreiter said. 

Sludge
treated to a lesser standard can also be used to fertilize crops not meant for
human consumption.

Golf
courses, which are in some cases used for spray irrigation of treated effluent,
also can use treated sewer sludge for fertilizer.

“It’s
a much better idea than just taking up landfill space,” said Kreiter.

Treated
wastewater will be disposed of in an environmentally responsible way through
land application, in this case spray irrigation, as required a few years ago by
the Worcester County Commissioners.

Spray
irrigation is one of the greenest ways to handle wastewater but is not yet in
common use in most areas.

When
the town’s new spray site near Newark is completed and online,
the town will own and operate the largest capacity spray site in Maryland, Kreiter said.

The
Newark site has very good soils for disposal of the treated wastewater at the
correct rate, one reason it took so long to find a new site.

Much
of the soil in the region is either sandy, which filters water too quickly, or
clay, which water does not percolate through, Kreiter said.

The
Newark spray site is currently under design, but the property does not actually

belong to the town yet. The sale contract is pending approval of permits by the Maryland Department of the Environment. However, MDE is waiting

on the Maryland Department of Planning to approve an amendment to the water and
sewer plan passed in February.

According
to Kreiter, the town is also looking into using solar panels, windmills or
other alternative energy technology at the Newark spray site to help keep
electric costs down.

The
town’s electric transmission
network does not reach south to
Newark, and without some alternative
way to gather energy, the town would have to purchase all its power for the
Newark spray site from an outside electric company.

“The
more we can do ourselves, the better,” said Kreiter.

 

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