Berlin Designing Lower Capacity Wastewater Plant

BERLIN – Despite a professed desire to ask for more sewer
capacity, the town of Berlin
is going ahead with work on the lower capacity wastewater plant.

“My understanding is
we’re proceeding with the .75 million gallons per day (mgd),” said Berlin
Administrative Director Linda Bambary this week.

Town representatives
informed the Worcester County Commissioners of their need for more sewer sooner
in mid-January, but have not yet made a formal request for a reconsideration of

Bambary presented a
nine-item outline of the next steps in the process of designing, funding and
permitting the wastewater treatment plant expansion and improvements to the
Berlin Mayor and Council Monday night.

The Worcester County
Water and Sewer plan amendment, concerning the Berlin sewer expansion, is now in the hands
of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), which has 90 days to
review the amendment, she said. Bambary said that MDE staff has informally told
her they see no problem with the amendment. In addition, the Maryland
Department of Planning will look the amendment over for consistency with the
Worcester County Comprehensive Plan.

With the amendment sent
on to MDE, the town council can consider approving the consent order requiring
the plant improvements at the Feb. 11 meeting. The town must also give approval
to a compliance schedule as part of the consent order.

The fines for
non-compliance with the phosphorous limits during stream discharge are also
part of the order, although, according to Bambary, the town should be able to
store effluent to spray irrigate during the growing season and not need to
stream discharge the treated wastewater this winter.

Engineering consultants
URS Corp. are now completing the application for the permit allowing the town
more discharge, using .75 mgd.

“We’re on the way at
.75. At 80 percent, you have to start planning what you have to do [to
expand],” Bambary said.  “We’re designing
at 1 mgd but building at .75. Financially it doesn’t make sense to go with the
larger plant.”

The plant will be built
in sections that are easily added onto, according to Bambary.

The town is also
planning to send out requests for qualifications, which ask interested engineering
firms to inform the town of their experience with Enhanced Nutrient Removal
(ENR) plants, working with municipalities and funding sources like grants and
state loans. “The ENR plants are very specialized and complicated,” Bambary

The grants and loans Berlin plans to apply
for require project engineers to have certain qualifications. A selection
committee of elected officials and town staff will choose an engineering firm
for design work based on a scoring system.

“Once the engineering
firm is on board, we’ll begin the construction permit application,” Bambary
told the council Monday night.

The town is currently
applying for funding through MDE’s revolving loan fund, as well as the Rural
Utility Service. URS is overhauling the preliminary engineering report to match
the county approved changes, a step necessary in the funding process.

Staff will be updating
ready-to-serve reserve and effluent flow numbers, which will be used to create
the capacity management plan, in which Berlin
will designate the number of residential hook-ups allowed each year. The
capacity management plan must be in place before final fees are calculated,
Bambary said. The costs already cited are for planning purposes.

“All the numbers have
something to do with the other,” said Bambary. “The puzzle’s got to be put

Town staff will work
with Worcester County staff on rates and special
connection fees, to create options for a fee structure. Townspeople will be
able to weigh in on new fees and hook-up costs before implementation.

“Typically we set new
fees during the budget process,” Bambary said. “Any time we raise our rates,
it’s a public hearing.”

Berlin also has plans to set up a fee-in-lieu system for
new developments that increase the need for spray irrigation land. The town
would like to require developers to provide spray irrigation land for their
projects. Typically, fee-in-lieu programs allow developers to pay a fee if they
cannot provide, for example, the required amount of spray land. Those funds
would then be used to provide the land elsewhere to remedy the lack.

New state legislation
requires a sunset clause on reserved capacity, but Bambary said she did not yet
know how that would work with Berlin’s
ready-to-serve fees. Developers also need a commitment on sewer to get

One approach may be to
impose the sunset restriction, requiring use by a certain date, only on new
development and annexations.

“We’re hoping that a lot
of these issues will be before you in some kind of legislation,” Bambary told
the town council.