SNOW HILL – County officials agreed to begin planning for an expansion of the Mystic Harbour Wastewater Treatment Plant.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners voted to start the planning process for an expansion of the Mystic Harbour plant. The decision came after staff advised the commissioners that the plant’s available capacity would be gone in five or six years.
“I think it’s important we start that process,” Commissioner Bud Church said.
At the request of the commissioners, county staff spent the past several months studying and reviewing the capacity and potential of the Mystic Harbour Wastewater Treatment Plant. According to John Ross, the county’s deputy director of public works, the upgrade of the plant that was completed in 2014 left the facility able to handle 450,000 gallons per day. Ross said 250,000 gallons per day was set aside for the original Mystic Harbour customers while the additional 200,000 gallons per day was available to new customers.
That additional 200,000 gallons equated to 666 new EDUs (equivalent dwelling units). Ross said about 360 EDUs had already been sold.
At the current allocation rate of 72 EDUs a year, Ross said the remaining EDUs would be allocated by 2023.
As far as future capacity, Ross said the plant had been built in cells and that an empty 150,000 gallon cell had been incorporated during the construction process to allow for easier expansion. Nevertheless, Ross said the county would have to spend roughly $2.5 million on improvements to make that extra capacity — which would equate to about 500 EDUs — available. Ross said the county would also have to identify a suitable effluent disposal site. While several potential sites were identified when the Mystic Harbour plant was initially upgraded, some of those were no longer viable options. He said that between finding a site and getting the necessary state approvals, expanding the plant could take four to six years.
“It may take that long to find a disposal site,” he said.
Commissioner Jim Bunting asked whether the $2.5 million expense of expanding the plant could be broken up into segments. Ross confirmed that was a possibility.
Church spoke in favor of proceeding with the expansion.
“I think with what we see in the pipeline it’s very important for us to move forward with the expansion of that plant,” he said. “The demands are there now. The demand’s going to grow and any delay we take in planning that expansion is going to not allow that growth to happen.”
The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of Church’s motion to move ahead with exploring an expansion of the plant.