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Marketing proposal rejected for pretreatment plant

July 09, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Efforts to market the debt-ridden Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility suffered a setback Tuesday when the Washington County Commissioners rejected a marketing proposal as too expensive.

The County Commissioners had sought proposals for marketing the plant but only one full proposal was submitted.

"I don't know if the marketing firms were just swamped with work or what," said Public Works Director Gary Rohrer. "We were very disappointed with the responses."

County officials now have to look at other ways to get revenue-generating waste into the underused plant, which will cost county taxpayers a projected $8 million over the next six years. That includes $832,000 this year, if the waste stream doesn't increase.

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Mounting losses at the $9 million plant, which opened in 1994, contributed to the commissioners' decision to raise property taxes $2.5 million effective July 1.

West & Brady Inc., of Beltsville, Md., submitted a marketing plan that would have cost the county $59,500 to $139,000. The commissioners rejected the plan on the recommendation of staff, who said it was too expensive.

The commissioners will seek other options, such as hiring an independent sales representative. The sales rep could be paid a base salary and a commission for new business, Disque said.

The marketing effort needn't be complex, she said. Someone would have to find industries in a 60-mile radius that create the kind of high-strength waste the plant excels at treating and contact them with direct mail and personal visits.

Rohrer said industries in the area need to be educated about the capabilities of the plant and the potential cost savings compared to building their own pretreatment facilities.

Plant manager Joe Sutton said in an interview the plant is operating far under its capacity of 135,000 gallons per day. In general, the flow is in the 30,000 to 40,000 gallons per day range, but has dropped substantially because of recent dry weather and because the plant no longer accepts emulsified oily waste from Mack Trucks, Sutton said.

About 85 percent of the flow into the plant comes from leachate, or rainwater that drains from landfills, he said.

Leachate, a low-strength waste, doesn't generate enough revenue to operate the plant, said Water and Sewer Director Greg Murray. Murray said the plant's strong point is handling high-strength biological waste, such as that generated by ice cream factories or other food processors.

The commissioners plan to meet with the Water and Sewer Advisory Commission at the end of July to discuss the pretreatment plant and other issues.

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