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County agency honored by governor's office

January 29, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

County agency honored by governor's office

The Washington County Water and Sewer Department has received a Governor's Award of Excellence for its "proactive approach" to a $12 million sewer project that the county's Water and Sewer Advisory Commission wants to delay or eliminate.

Biological nutrient removal upgrades at the county's wastewater treatment plants are expected to cost up to $12 million, with about half of that expected to come from state grants and the rest from county sewer customers.

The nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus degrade water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

Advisory Commission Chairman Clarence W. Scheer has said it did not make sense for the county and state to spend $12 million on the project at a time when the county has a $55 million water and sewer debt.

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Scheer has urged the county's delegation to the General Assembly to delay or eliminate the mandate for nutrient removal.

Water and Sewer Department Director Greg Murray said the nutrient removal goals are valid but that the county wants to limit the burden placed on sewer customers.

Murray and Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said they are seeking ways to cut the $12 million cost significantly.

Murray said the upgrade work is scheduled to begin in 2001, and $1.16 million is included in next year's draft capital budget for advance work on the project.

The department was honored specifically for its work at the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant, where a study of the upgrade is under way, and for upgrading the Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant near Fort Ritchie to reduce nutrient discharges.

Fewer than 10 percent of the nutrients in rivers, streams and the bay come from wastewater treatment plants, Murray said.

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