Berlin Wastewater Plant Upgrade Process On Target

BERLIN – The expansion of and improvements to the Berlin wastewater treatment plant are on schedule so far, with an approval from Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for the requested expansion to one million gallons per day (mgd) arriving in early July and possible spray irrigation land under study.

“I’m not at liberty to disclose what land, but we are testing land now,” said Berlin’s Administrative Director Linda Bambary.

Berlin was tasked with moving solely to spray disposal for treated effluent when the County Commissioners approved the expansion of the Berlin wastewater treatment plant this spring, imposing a 2013 deadline for the complete switchover. It’s widely acknowledged prospective spray disposal land has been difficult to find and is said to be expensive.

The town of Berlin will need to go back to the county when it has found usable spray land.

“Once you decide where we’re going to be spraying our discharge, you have to go back and amend the [Worcester County] water and sewer plan,” Bambary explained to the Berlin Mayor and Council on Monday night.

Engineering firm URS Corp. should submit plans for the wastewater treatment plant construction permit to MDE in September, along with the   discharge permit.

The approval process could last through spring 2009 before the construction permit is issued.

“The fun will begin,” said Bambary, when Berlin submits plans for the work to MDE, which often results in wrangling over plant design and other details.

If the plans are submitted in September as expected, Bambary said, the project will stay on schedule. If URS does not submit the plans until later in the fall, the project would begin to fall behind.

Meanwhile, developers Tom Ruark and Monogram Builders of the Davis-Taylor Farm senior housing project have moved forward on the spray irrigation front, despite the absence of the special exception necessary to put a senior living facility on industrial land. The project will go before the Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals to seek that special exception at a special meeting called for Aug. 20.

MDE has, at the developer’s request, issued planning limits for disposing of the Davis-Taylor Farm subdivision’s treated wastewater on the Beach Club Golf Course, a move that surprised the town of Berlin.  

“We haven’t had any discussion with the developer,” said Bambary.

Berlin staff learned of the request and MDE’s response when the state agency copied the town on a draft letter confirming the golf course spray limits to project engineer Dane Bauer.

“We don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle,” said Council member Paula Lynch.  

Berlin staff and elected officials were particularly startled by the developers’ actions because it will be Berlin’s responsibility to handle the lengthy county and state approval process to get the golf course approved for use for wastewater disposal.

“My understanding is because it is for land to spray effluent for the Davis-Taylor proposed subdivision, that would require the town of Berlin to ask for a water and sewer amendment form Worcester County to spray at the Beach Club,” said Bambary. “There is a lot to go through for the senior housing project.”

Ruark did not respond to requests for an interview.

Bauer, project engineer with Daft Walker and McCune, declined an interview request.

“I’d rather not say anything,” Bauer said when contacted by telephone.

The senior living subdivision at the Davis-Taylor farmlands proposed by Ruark will receive wastewater treatment services from the town of Berlin sewer system.

The properties are within Berlin town limits, but the Beach Club golf course is outside the town limits, in Worcester County.

Berlin’s current spray irrigation site is also in Worcester County.

Developers in Berlin are in general being asked to provide spray disposal land for new construction to help the town meet the Worcester County imposed requirement to dispose of effluent by land rather than water looming before the town of Berlin.

While sewer capacity has taken center stage in Berlin, the town has been creeping closer to the limits of its water withdrawal permit.

“We’re very close to that. We’ve kind of been focusing all our attention on sewer,” said Bambary.

Exceeding the state water permit limit would have strong consequences for the development industry in Berlin.

“We’d have to do a moratorium on building permits,” Bambary said.

Builders should not worry, however, as the town should have little trouble getting the water limit increased, according to Bambary, who said water is in good supply on the Eastern Shore.

“We won’t have to drill a new well but we do need to get the increase on the permit,” Bambary said.