SNOW HILL – County officials approved a water and sewer plan amendment this week that will allow for the installation of a sewage treatment plant at a Bishopville mobile home park.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners voted to approve an amendment to the Worcester County Master Water and Sewerage Plan allowing certain systems to seek a point source discharge permit. Though not site specific, the amendment will allow for the installation of a sewage treatment plant at Riverview Mobile Home Park in Bishopville.
“I think anything we can do that will improve the quality of the Bishopville Prong I’m for,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said.
Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, explained that the proposed text amendment would change the section of the water and sewerage plan related to protection of the environment. The section of the plan prohibiting long-term discharge into the coastal bays would be revised to allow for surface discharge to the bays in certain situations on the condition that enhanced treatment was required and that the discharge not contribute to degradation of the waterbody.
Joe Moore, the attorney who proposed the text amendment, said that while the proposed change was generic it would allow for improvements at Riverview Mobile Home Park.
“The very purpose of it is to enhance the water quality of adjacent water courses,” Moore said. “Of course, we’re on the Bishopville Prong, which everyone knows. It is a bit stressed.”
Consulting engineer Robert Rauch said the original plan likely hadn’t included the proposed language because the enhanced treatment technology hadn’t been available when the plan was written. He added the proposal would eliminate more than 370 pounds of nitrogen by getting rid of 66 septic systems at Riverview Mobile Home Park.
Kevin Smith, executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, wrote a letter in support of the text amendment.
“It is our understanding that the proposed text amendment will provide for the installation of a sewage treatment plant for the Riverview Mobile Home Park with a single discharge to Bishopville Prong,” Smith wrote. “It is also our understanding that this will provide for an enhanced level of treatment which will result in a net reduction in nutrient loading to Bishopville Prong.”
Kathy Phillips of Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) submitted a letter that provided comment but was not for or against the text amendment. She pointed out while there was potential for improved water quality, the text amendment appeared to circumvent the comprehensive planning process.
“There has been an alarming increase in ‘zoning by text amendment’ in Worcester County the past few years, and ACT has noticed the tendency for the county to grow by ‘one text amendment after another’ instead of comprehensively planning growth in the county through a long overdue stakeholder and public opinion process,” Phillips wrote. “This constant trickle of text amendments and zoning changes are designed to benefit one property owner but have county wide implications. These under-the-radar individual text amendments are not widely known by the public and in the end the county zoning is changing without true public review and input.”
Bunting was quick to speak in support of the text amendment and its potential to improve the health of the Bishopville Prong.
“The Bishopville Prong is in bad, bad shape,” he said. “I wouldn’t even allow my dog to swim in it.”
Commissioner Josh Nordstrom asked what assurances the county had that the new system would do what the applicant said it would. Mitchell explained that there would be state oversight.
“It sounds like an excellent plan,” Nordstrom said. “I’m certainly in favor of anything that cleans up our waterways.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the text amendment.