Sewage Disposal Plan Still Stalls Major Showell Project

SNOW HILL – Spray irrigation is the way to go for the
controversial proposed residential sewer plant in Showell, the planning
commission told the county this week.

Planning commission chair Carolyn Cummins laid out the
commission’s position in a half hour presentation Tuesday, concluding that a
combination of spray irrigation and reuse of the treated effluent would be the
best choice.

“Spray is still the preferred option,” said Cummins, who
several times made the point that the new comprehensive plan adopted in 2006
calls for spray irrigation rather than water discharge.

However, Cummins reported that the planning commission
supports retaining the water discharge permit in the event of maintenance or

Treated effluent would be used for landscaping and to
water lawns as well as irrigate farmland. Industrial use is also an option.
This approach would reduce nutrient impacts on the coastal bays, reduce use of
drinking, and reduce effluent storage.

The consultant’s report recommended discharging to the
bays in the winter months, but the planning commission disagreed.

The plant would be converted from an industrial plant at
the closed Perdue chicken processing facility in Showell, and should provide
4,000 EDUs of wastewater service.

The county would provide the spray irrigation system,
with, the first spray fields be ready in 2010, with all complete by 2017.

“If the county is diligent in its effort to pursue spray
irrigation it should match up with ADC’s schedule,” Cummins said.

ADC Builders, developer of the proposed 1,000 home
community, would build the plant, and retain 1,000 EDUS, and turn over the
remaining 3,000 units of service to Worcester County. Perdue has asked for 500
EDUs for industrial uses.

There is no public sewer in the Showell area, and septic
systems leach a substantial amount of nutrients into the coastal bays.

“We agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation,” said
ADC Builders’ attorney Mark Cropper.

Cummins said the proposed plan represents the best deal
for the county. “The highest priority of this plan should be converting septic
systems to public sewer,” Cummins said.

 The planning
commission recommended a point person to work on acquiring spray fields.

“TMDL (total maximum daily load) implementation is going
to be placed in our laps,” Cummins said. 
“We can’t reach TMDLs with non-point source BMPs (best management
practices) alone. It’s prudent public policy to stop wishing for spray

Spray irrigation is complicated, said Commissioner and
farmer Virgil Shockley. He suggested renting farmland, adding an irrigation system,
then leasing it back to farmers. “Dry as it is, if you got irrigation sitting
out there, it’s worth something,” Shockley said.

Others said time constraints should force the county to
expedite the decision. “I think it’s time for us to make a decision one way or
the other so the builders know where they stand,” said Commission president Jim

Commissioner Bud Church asked if he was looking for a

Cummins interrupted and said that she thought the
commissioners would need more time to look at the information they had been
given. A work session would also probably be in order, she said. She also
suggested the plan ought to be reviewed by the public.

“I think we need to hear from the public,” Cummins said.
“I’ve always found their input very valuable.”

County Attorney Ed Hammond said the process had to be
followed to the letter. “There is a legal process you have to go by and there
are findings you have to make,” he said. “There’s a public hearing in there

Church then asked Cropper how long the developer had been
working on the project.

Cropper replied that it had been a year and a half, then
took the opportunity to stand up and argue on behalf of his client. Cropper
asked that the commissioners give him a decision on the plan.

“We very, very respectfully ask to know today,” Cropper
said. He added, “ADC is tired of bleeding if they don’t know if they can get to
the next step. This is the big kahuna.”

However, the commissioners were not about to rush their
decision. “I think your client will have to wait until I get confirmation with
what is happening,” said Boggs. “When I feel confident to vote, I’ll vote.”

Others took exception to the pressure exerted on them. “I
wasn’t very pleased by the idle threat,” Shockley said later. “My hand was
already in the air waving bye bye. I don’t care. There’s three other people in

Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastkeeper and executive
director of Assateague Coastal Trust, who was in the audience, spoke up on a
point of order, asking the commissioners whether other stakeholders would be
permitted to speak along with Cropper.

Cropper said that ADC Builders paid half the cost of the
report. Phillips asked the commissioners for a yes or no answer, but received
no reply at all. The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the
recommendation in the near future.