Pines Board Votes To Support Effluent Irrigation Plan

OCEAN PINES – Association officials agreed to lend their support to a county proposal that calls for installing a new irrigation system and spraying treated effluent at the Ocean Pines Golf Course.

Less than a week after a joint town hall meeting with Worcester County officials, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors agreed to send a letter of support endorsing the county’s plan for a new irrigation system that will spray effluent water on the golf course.

“There are no contracts, no proposals at this point,” President Larry Perrone said in last week’s board meeting. “It’s up to the county to move forward with their plans and to move forward with putting it on their schedule and try to get the bond issue going.”

Since last year, county officials have worked with OPA General Manager John Viola and association staff to explore the possibility of using effluent from the Ocean Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant to irrigate the golf course. They said using effluent water would not only reduce the level of nutrients entering the waterway, but reduce the use of groundwater for irrigation.

The proposal also includes an overhaul of the golf course’s irrigation system. Installing new pipes and sprinkler heads, officials reported, is expected to cost $2.8 million. But adding pipelines and pumps to bring the treated effluent to the golf course is expected to increase that total to $3.2 million.

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During last week’s board meeting, Director Frank Daly commended county officials for answering the community’s questions at the recent town hall meeting. He added that he had since received additional questions relating to maintenance costs and the current condition of the existing irrigation system.

“There’s some discussion within the community that the current system is leaking and near failure and is in eminent need of replacement,” he said.

Viola noted the 50-year-old system continues to operate, but that it requires extensive maintenance. He noted that the association spent $15,000 to $20,000 on parts each year to make repairs to the irrigation system.

“The pumping station and all the equipment there, it works, but it does need a lot of maintenance,” he said. “We have done repairs there, but it’s ready to be replaced.”

Golf Course Superintendent Justin Hartshorne added that the current system runs at a limited capacity to avoid leaking pipes.

“We’re looking to upgrade the whole system to have the capacity to water the entire property,” he said.

When asked if the golf course would be closed for any length of time, Viola said there would be minimal disruptions. He noted the project would likely take place during a five-month timeframe of November to March.

“The whole course will never be shut down,” Perrone added, “maybe just some of the holes.”

Daly noted that other golf courses, including Glen Riddle and Lighthouse Sound, had some sort of county-run effluent system.

“It seems like a no brainer to support it because we’re competing with people that, to some degree or another, have a county system,” he said.

When asked the association’s existing plan for replacing the irrigation system, Hartshorne said it was currently scheduled to be updated over the course of 19 years.

“Combining all those parts … it came to about $2 million,” he said. “It’s not effectively a full replacement of pipes and wires and everything that would go into having a brand-new system. It’s more replacing parts and pieces as they seem to fail.”

During this month’s town hall meeting, officials told association members that ratepayers would pay between $4 and $5 more each quarter to fund the construction costs of both the irrigation system and an unrelated filter replacement at the treatment plant. The new irrigation system would be owned and maintained by Worcester County over the course of a 15-year bond.

“Then we would take over the system,” Viola told board members last week.

During public comments, resident Joe Reynolds said he had concerns regarding the legal aspects of project. He noted the county would need an easement to construct and maintain the irrigation system.

“There’s a lot of unknowns there,” he said. “I ask that you be careful in your deliberations or whatever you do.”

With no further discussion, the board agreed to send a letter of support, allowing Worcester County to move forward with funding and design. Officials noted construction would not start until November 2022, at the earliest.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.