Ethanol Plant Disposal Pitched

SNOW HILL – The ethanol plant planned in Somerset County might provide a novel ways of disposing of treated wastewater effluent for one Worcester County treatment plant, Commissioner Virgil Shockley suggested this week.

Pocomoke City currently deposits roughly 750,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater into the Pocomoke River. Shockley suggested that this effluent be pumped to the ethanol plant and used in lieu of much of the fresh water from the aquifer.

The ethanol plant would need one million gallons of water per day to cool pipes, most of which would evaporate. The ethanol plant proposal calls for fresh water from the Pocomoke aquifer to be used.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is looking into it, according to Worcester County Chief Administrator Gerry Mason. Charles County is considering a similar scheme.    Shockley said that MDE needs a letter from the commissioners asking them to look into it.

Commissioner Bobby Cowger, who represents Pocomoke City, suggested the plant pump the remainder of its coolant water needs from the Pocomoke River itself. The river is also an option if the effluent cannot be used, he said.

“You’d never miss one million gallons a day out of that river, I assure you,” said Cowger.

Worcester County is keeping an eye on the ethanol plant because it could be taking water from the same aquifer as Pocomoke City and some county well users. Somerset County wells have had some trouble getting water this summer, with the Eastern Correctional Institute overdrawing from the aquifer.

“The ethanol plant in Somerset County is going to be drawing a large volume of water out of the Pocomoke aquifer,” said Mason.

The Somerset County Commissioners, according to Mason, have said they would not go along with the plan for the ethanol plant to tap into the Pocomoke aquifer, requiring the use of the Patapsco aquifer in its place.

Cowger said that the commissioners need to stand strong against the ethanol plant’s use of the Pocomoke aquifer.

“This really is very early on. We don’t know if the plant’s going to be built,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs. “It’s important to do it now.”

Industrial plants should be encouraged to use effluent for coolant, said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

Shockley also cited a Worcester County sod farm, currently getting water from the Wicomico River, that might be better served using treated effluent instead.