Sewer Policy Changes Expected To Cut Discharge

SNOW HILL – Two changes made to sewer policy in Worcester County this week will reduce the discharge of nitrogen into the coastal bays from point sources in the critical area.

The Worcester County Commissioners voted to accept two amendments to the Worcester County water and sewer plan, one to require that new septic systems in the critical area use nutrient reduction technology, and another amendment switching the Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) sewer system from a bay outfall to land deposit.

Both changes reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into the coastal bays, which contributes to poor water quality.

The new septic requirement is for new building in the critical area, not for repairs or renovations, and will be paid for by flush tax funding as far as the money will go.

The new requirement is part of implementing the 2006 Comprehensive Plan, which calls for a reduction in nutrient discharge into the coastal bays.

“This is our beginning,” said Commission President Louise Gulyas. “This is what we’ve been working toward with the comprehensive plan.”

The state will pay for installation and five years of operations and maintenance.

“We’re not getting anymore waterfront property created here. This is targeted toward that property,” said Bob Mitchell, director of environmental programs. “The more we install the better price we’re going to get.”

AINS will upgrade its wastewater treatment plant with new technology and add capacity. The treated effluent from the visitor center, headquarters, and the ecology research laboratory, will now be sent into a large adjacent wetland.

“Currently, the system is a point discharge to the coastal bays. The approach now is to convert that to a land discharge system,” said Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman.

The switch will eliminate the only point source discharge on Sinepuxant Bay.

“This plant will treat it to a higher state of treatment,” said Coyman. “It will pass overland and basically evaporate. The vegetation on the surface will take up the nitrogen.”

The effluent will wind up in a wetland storage area, where plants will slowly take up the rest of the nutrients.

“It’s a normal cycle,” Mitchell said. “The wastewater will never reach the exit point of the wetland.”