SNOW HILL – Public sewer might be on the way for the Route 589 business area after the total failure of the Pines Plaza septic system, which will require at least a temporary connection to a public wastewater plant.
“It appears at this juncture the system will not be able to be rehabilitated,” said Ed Tudor, director of the Development Review and Permitting Department.
In a memo, Bob Mitchell, county environmental programs administrator, called the Pines Plaza situation “a bona fide health and environmental emergency.”
In mid-August, the Cathell Rd. shopping center, just off Route 589, reported problems with the large septic system serving the commercial property.
State and local officials conducted a joint investigation of the problem.
Sewage is now being pumped and hauled to the Snow Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant for disposal.
Staff asked the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday for permission to create a temporary connection from the Pines Plaza Shopping Center, through the Pennington Commons sewer pipes, to the Ocean Pines Wastewater Plant, which handles sewage for Pennington Commons.
Pines Plaza will be allowed initially to use the temporary hook-up for six months, with a six-month extension possible after that, said county attorney Sonny Bloxom.
As owners and operators of the Ocean Pines wastewater treatment plant, the commissioners had to give their permission for the temporary hook-up.
Shutting down the Pines Plaza septic in favor of service from the best wastewater plant in Maryland is better for the environment, Bloxom noted.
Mark Cropper, attorney for the owners of Pennington Common, said his clients did not have time to look at the matter thoroughly and want to be assured that the development will not be negatively impacted and any such impacts that occur would be taken care of.
Pines Plaza will pay for all the work associated with connecting to the Ocean Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant and then removing the connection when necessary.
Once connected, Pines Plaza will pay 150 percent of the rate charged to sewer users within the Ocean Pines service area.
After the temporary connection is established, the county should begin working on establishing a small service area for the commercial businesses near the shopping center, Tudor said.
“If we don’t come to a permanent solution, they’re out of business,” said Bloxom.
“We don’t want to have this turn into a permanent connection,” Tudor said.
“This is an emergency situation, a short term, temporary solution,” said Bloxom.
A permanent solution will involve other commercial properties on the west side of Route 589 using one connection going under the road as part of a new service area.
The county still needs to work out who pays for what work, how much the cost will be and how people will be billed.
“Most properties will probably want to come into the long-term solution,” Bloxom said.
Pines Plaza could build its own wastewater treatment plant but that would be more expensive.
Several other area structures would also like to connect to the Ocean Pines Wastewater Plant, Commissioner Linda Busick said, such as Showell Elementary School, Most Blessed Sacrament School and possibly St. John Neumann Church.