Mystic Harbor Plant Replacement Project Ahead

SNOW HILL — After years of being in the works, Mystic Harbour will soon be getting a much needed new Wastewater Treatment Plant.

According to Public Works Director John Tustin, replacing the Mystic Harbour plant has been the “number one priority project” for several years. The plant was first built in 1975 and became a full county entity in 2004. Since then, many issues have arisen to the point where the plant is considered a risk to both public health and the environment.

Originally slated to cost about $8.8 million, estimates for the replacement plant have risen nearly 50 percent, with the current appraisal at $12.5 million. Financing for the project will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and consist of $4.7 million in grants and about $7.9 million in low-interest loans payable over 40 years. The project itself is expected to take 18 months.

Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw questioned the large difference between the original estimated price and what the plant will actually cost.

“This cost is way in line if not better [than similar projects],” said Tustin, who explained that prices had simply risen naturally.

Getting the ball rolling on the new plant has taken several years and assistance from many areas of government.

“I am proud to work in the U.S. Senate to build communities and create jobs. This federal investment to improve Mystic Harbour’s sewer system will do just that,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski. “Maryland cities and towns need to upgrade their water and sewer infrastructure but they can’t do it on their own, and rate payers shouldn’t have to bear the full burden. This grant is a double value for the taxpayer dollar, creating jobs while improving health and safety and helping this community grow.”

Mikulski’s fellow Senator Ben Cardin, chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed with her assessment of the need to replace the old plant.

“Mystic Harbour’s aging water infrastructure system is part of a nationwide problem in which many communities have deteriorating water and sewer systems that require greater investment,” said Cardin. “This funding will help safeguard the health of Marylanders and our fragile coastal areas.”

During a hearing held Tuesday, members of the public were given the opportunity to come before the County Commissioners and express their opinions on the final cost of the plant. Only one person in the audience decided to speak up.

“I’m here to say thank you to everybody for all of the work you’ve done,” said Frank Foley.

Foley, a longtime resident of Mystic Harbour, has been crusading for years to have the county address a permanent odor that hangs around his neighborhood. He went so far as to put together a petition demanding action in 2007. Since then, he has regularly attended Water Advisory Board meetings and kept in contact with the government about fixing the situation.

He added that he was “quite impressed with the quality of [county] employees, top to bottom,” stating that they were always polite and concerned with the problems in his neighborhood.

Because the odor was caused by old sludge beds and sand filters located at the current plant, the new facility should mean a permanent end to the smell.

Foley was glad to hear it.
“This is one example of how the county government works with the people,” he said.