Richard D. L. Fulton
(9/1) Emmitsburg’s new wastewater treatment facility is proceeding as planned and expected to be fully functional in 2015.
Work on the $20 million treatment plant was mandated by the state in conjunction with efforts that should help clean-up the Chesapeake Bay.
The state directed that existing wastewater treatment facilities would have to meet stringent processing criteria to reduce various bay-threatening pollutants, such as nutrients, by either upgrading existing facilities or building new ones.
Planning the proposed new Emmitsburg treatment facility, which is being constructed at the site of the existing plant off Creamery Way, began in 2007, and the launch date for the plant is expected to occur in spring 2015.
The funds to pay for the new plant come from several sources. $14.5 million of the total price tag has been approved in the form of grants from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the federal Department of Agriculture (DOA).
In addition, DOA will be providing the town with a $5.5 million loan bearing a 2.4 percent interest rate payable over 40 years.
The recently town Board of Commissioners-approved increase in user fees will provide additional money for the project, such as payment on the loan interest.
The town awarded the construction project to Conewago Enterprises, Inc., and work has already begun, the company having initiated site work in October 2012.
Emmitsburg water and sewer Superintendent Dan Fissel estimated that approximately 20 percent of the on-site work has been completed as of July 2013.
According to Town Manager David Haller, when the new plant goes on-line, the old Emmitsburg facility will be taken off-line.
Both the old and new facilities will be equipped to process up to 750,000 gallons of wastewater per day, but the new facility will produce a cleaner end-product.
Only the maintenance structures and the existing lab will be retained, as well as one or two of the existing wastewater storage lagoons.
Haller described the wastewater treatment process at the new plant as a "very active treatment," as compared to the "passive treatment" employed at the existing facility.
Passive treatment is relatively "low tech," while active treatment involved aerating the water and thus intensifying bacteria growth, which is necessary in treating the raw wastewater.
However, an active treatment system also uses up much more for electricity than a passive system, and Emmitsburg will see the electric costs of processing their wastewater increase by $100,000 a year.
To help defray that increase, town staff are also working toward constructing solar panels, expected to generate enough electricity to more than compensate for the increase in electric usage. The solar energy installations will also be located on the same site and the waterwater treatment facility.
The power generated would be fed into the general power grid, and the town would then receive credit on what it owes for power consumption. Town solar energy is expected to be completely functional by 2016.
Emmitsburg Mayor Donald N. Briggs called the state-mandated improvements "a real challenge for a town our size." However, he also said, "We have a lot of eyes on the overall project. We have gotten a lot of god information from the DOA."
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