Proposed WOC Project Taps Out Mystic Harbour EDUs

BERLIN – The last of the wastewater capacity sold by Mystic Harbour several years ago is on the road to being used by the Sea Oaks development off Route 611.

The Sea Oaks project is in the early stages of Worcester County Planning Commission approval, having just passed the preliminary plat stage last week.

The project would use Mystic Harbour sewer and water for 40 single-family homes, said project consultant Bob Hand.

“This is going to be on public water and sewer,” the developer’s attorney Hugh Cropper explained at last week’s Planning Commission meeting. “This will consume the remainder of the EDUs. … It’ll be the last of its kind on public water and sewer.”

Jack Burbage, developer of Mystic Harbour and seller of the EDUs, sees the end of an era.

 “I think it pretty well puts an end to what you can develop,” Burbage said. “It really limits any more development down 611.”

The rural nature of Route 611, particularly south of the Ocean City Airport may not see the sort of development common along other main roads in the northern half of the county.

The 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan directs development to the municipalities, away from rural areas.

“The county wants it moved around towns,” said Burbage. “I think it’ll be greatly limited.”

There is no more public sewer available along that highway, unless Worcester County chooses to expand the Mystic Harbour wastewater plant, according to Burbage.

“I would like to see continuing development in the area,” Burbage said. “I would like to see 611 have a little more quality development in the future. … I don’t want to see bumper to bumper development.”

John Ross, Deputy Director of Public Works, said that there is adequate capacity in both water and sewer to handle those reserved EDUs, although the water and sewer infrastructure is old and needs some work.

“From an incremental standpoint it doesn’t affect it all that much,” Ross said. “I got a lot of problems with the Mystic Harbour sewer plant, none of which have to do with capacity.”

According to Ross, the 35-year=old plant has many mechanical issues.

County staff has generated some options to take care of emergencies, including a way to make a temporary link between the Mystic Harbour and West Ocean City sewer system, which could be completed in hours if needed.

Dennis Escher, public facilities project manager for Worcester County, reported to the County Commissioners this spring that the Mystic Harbour wastewater plant needs to be replaced in the next five years.

A new wastewater plant could cost as much as $7.5 million, which would be paid for by adding 1,000 EDUs of capacity, said Escher

“We’re in the process of trying to do something about that plant,” Ross said.

While just three quarters of water EDUs are currently being used, the water facility often runs at full strength.

The remaining EDUs, when hooked up and running, could increase water usage by as much as 35 percent, according to Escher’s report.

Ross contends that the situation is not that dire. Water usage has gotten better of late, he said, and improvements are being made to the water system, including rehabilitating the Oyster Harbour water plant and adding another water tank.

Increased rates for heavy water users have tamed the high flows somewhat, he said.

“We’ve got a pretty good handle on the water at this point,” said Ross.