Planners OK Project’s Spray Irrigation

PSNOW HILL – The massive Summerfield project in Snow Hill plans to make the small town the second municipality in Worcester County to use spray irrigation to dispose of treated sewage.

The Worcester County Planning Commission gave the notion its stamp of approval last week, voting to give the idea a favorable recommendation. The County Commissioners must next approve an amendment to the county water and sewer plan.

Berlin is the only town or community in Worcester County to use spray irrigation for sewage disposal.

Planning Commission Chair Carolyn Cummins commended developer Mark Odachowski and his representatives for not arguing that the project needs spray irrigation.

The commission has been pushing for spray irrigation in various projects across the county for months. Spray disposal is listed in the 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan as the preferred method to handle treated sewage, county staffer Erin Ross said.

The amount of nitrogen from effluent going into the Pocomoke River will be reduced to one-sixth of the current load, with the new treatment plant and spray site, said Summerfield attorney Hugh Cropper. The nutrients will be reduced from a high of 18 milliliters per liter to three milliliters per liter of treated wastewater.

 “You’re reducing it by 80 percent,” said Planning Commissioner Coston Gladding. “It used to be 10 pounds, now it’s two pounds.”

The Maryland Department of the Environment is requiring a 50-percent reduction in nutrient discharged into the Pocomoke River. The river has not yet been assigned a total maximum daily load (TMDL) amount, which is mandatory, said Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman.

The Summerfield development will build a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant to replace Snow Hill’s 1960s era plant, which sits on the bank of the Pocomoke River.

The spray site, on Timmons Rd., can take 553,000 gallons per day (gpd) of treated effluent, according to Cropper, and possibly more.

Use of the spray site will reduce the additional gallons of effluent going into the Pocomoke River. According to Cropper, the town currently discharges 500,000 gpd into the waterway.

“So it’s really [only] an increase of 167,000 gpd into the Pocomoke River,” said Cropper.

Bob Mitchell, head of Worcester County’s Environmental Programs department, said that it is feasible for the Timmons Rd. spray site to take two inches of effluent per week in the summer. Sod grown on the site could use even more wastewater, he said.

The new plant, unlike the current facility, can be expanded in the future to treat more sewage. Although builders do not see it serving areas outside the town limits any time soon, Snow Hill will receive several hundred EDUs above what is needed to serve its existing population.

“There is more capacity for the town of Snow Hill. They get an extra 400 EDUs,” Cropper said.

Things could change in the future, he noted.

“This new plant offers the best opportunity for a regional plant that ultimately could be all land application,” Cropper said.

Other spray fields could be found, he said.

The town could ask all new development for spray land or to make an opportunity to reuse that wastewater, said Planning Commission member Jeanne Lynch.

Odachowski said the town could start using the spray site as soon as the plant infrastructure is in place, even before development starts.

The commission agreed the spray field was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and voted unanimously to give it a favorable recommendation.