Master Water, Sewer Plan Discussed

SALISBURY – A plan for countywide water and sewer calls for multiple service districts, the creation of a public works water division and more than $200 million of infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Acting County Executive John Psota and George, Miles & Buhr (GMB) representatives Peter Bozick and Katherine McAllister presented the Wicomico County Council with a newly released Wicomico County Water and Sewer Master Plan.

“The water and sewer master plan represent a long-range strategic vision and action plan for the county to provide public water and sewer utility services to promote quality of life, environmental protection and economic enhancement for its citizens residing outside municipalities in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan,” Psota said. “Wicomico County water and sewer master plan was a major undertaking and contains many details, facts and figures pertaining to housing growth and projections, existing nutrient loading to the bay watershed, and proposes the creation of 10 county-sponsored water and/or sewer service districts.”

A master plan for countywide water and sewer began in the spring of 2019, nearly four years after the county conducted a feasibility study identifying ways to provide sewer service to homes with failing septic systems on the east side of Wicomico.

While the county does not own its own water and sewer facilities, officials acknowledged the master plan would provide a roadmap of sorts for financing, constructing and maintaining a countywide system.

Bozick said the 285-page document presented to council members this week focused primarily on sewer infrastructure in unincorporated rural communities within the county’s growth areas.

While it is recommended that roughly 6,000 homes be served by expanded municipal systems, the master plan calls for 12 potential water and/or sewer utility service districts: Mardela Springs, Whitehaven, Parsonsburg, Coulbourn Mill Road area, Nanticoke-Bivalve-Tyaskin, Nanticoke Road area, Riverside Road Extended area, Quantico, Allen, Powellville, East Delmar and East Wicomico. It’s proposed that 10 will be built by Wicomico County and two – East Delmar and East Wicomico – would be built by developers.

“These areas are growth areas within the comprehensive plan,” Bozick said. “When people make the general statement that they want sewer throughout the county, this is what sewer throughout the county looks like, because it complies with the county’s comprehensive plan.”

Bozick said the master plan also identifies the first five service districts as priority areas, as they contain a significant number of county homeowners experiencing hardships with failing onsite sewage systems.

“In total, it’s about 2,500 houses we’re talking about the county serving with a sewer utility system,” he said.

But building infrastructure for those five areas, Bozick said, would require several legislative actions, including amendments to the water and sewer comprehensive plan and priority funding area maps, as well as the creation of a water division.

“The bottom line we recommended here is that the county create a water division underneath the public works department to begin the process of handling water and sewer utility infrastructure,” he said.

Bozick said it would also require grant funding to reduce infrastructure costs from more than $200 million to roughly $80 million.

“In so doing, it gets our monthly costs in the general range of $100 a month,” he said.

Bozick told officials it would take several action steps for the county to build and maintain its own infrastructure. In addition to passing enabling legislation and the creating a water division, the county would also need to acquire the necessary permits and land, secure grant funding and adopt a rate structure, to name a few.

After further discussion, the council agreed to hold a separate work session to review and discuss the master plan in greater detail.

“Once this master plan is approved and we’re on the course to implement this master plan, we do so with a sense of urgency throughout,” Bozick said.

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.