County Hopes to Reduce Spray Buffers

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners will hold a public hearing April 22, before considering the text amendment for passage on changes to spray irrigation buffers and an expansion of the zones spray irrigation land will be allowed in.

The change would implement an important tenet of the March 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive plan that highly treated effluent should be disposed of through spray irrigation.

The Worcester County Planning Commission enthusiastically endorsed the text amendment in early March.

As written, the draft text amendment would make more land available for spray irrigation effluent disposal by changing setbacks to conform to Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) regulations, which typically call for narrower setbacks at spray irrigation sites than Worcester County regulations do.

“We’re tying it back to MDE discharge permits,” said Development Review and Permitting head Ed Tudor at Tuesday’s commissioner meeting.

Effluent to be disposed of by spray irrigation must be treated to class II levels.

“That’s as highly treated as you can get today,” said Tudor.

Class II effluent treatment, once known as tertiary treatment, is defined by MDE.

The amendment would also allow spray irrigation in land zoned agricultural, estate residential, rural residential, light industrial, or heavy industrial as a permitted use.

Spray irrigation would be allowed as a permitted use in several other zones: village, suburban residential, multi-family residential, general residential, mobile home residential, office residential, and both neighborhood and general business zones.

Under the current code, spray irrigation is permitted in all zones, but only by special exception, which must be granted by the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Warning signs would be erected around the perimeter of a spray field where effluent is disposed within 100 feet of a property line or structure zoned for human habitation.

If passed, more land would become eligible for spray irrigation, the effluent disposal method called for by the Comprehensive Plan, and smaller setbacks would make the method more practicable.

The proposed text amendment would apply to Worcester County and municipally owned and operated wastewater systems.