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County could face $6 million in additional sewer expenses

January 09, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich's pledge last month to make the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay a top state priority might add $6 million to Washington County's approximately $43.6 million water and sewer debt.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Thursday that part of Ehrlich's commitment includes an effort to further reduce the amount of nutrient pollution flowing into the bay with tougher restrictions on sewage treatment plants.

Sewage treatment plants are a major source of nutrient pollution, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Nutrient pollution primarily is made up of an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus, and kills grasses and depletes oxygen from deep water - killing fish and other species, according to the foundation.

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Ehrlich and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced last month they planned to make the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay a national effort.

Wivell, a member of the county's Water Quality Advisory Board, said the county's share of reducing nutrients from the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant would be about $6 million. He said the state would provide a $6 million match.

The county would have to use a new system at the plant to remove nutrients before waste water is discharged.

Wivell questioned whether the new system would be the logical move, since the county approved the approximately $6 million Biological Nutrient Removal treatment system in 2000.

The Biological Nutrient Removal system, a state-initiated project, was aimed at reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous discharged into the Chesapeake Bay.

"To me, it focuses on a problem that I thought we had already addressed," Wivell said of the new system.

The cost of restoring the bay is estimated to be $11.5 billion over the next 10 years, according to a written statement from Ehrlich's office.

Ehrlich also hopes to restore the bay through restoring the oyster population and increasing bay grasses, the statement says.

On Thursday, Ehrlich said he plans to charge Maryland households $2.50 a month to raise $66 million a year for the upgrades at sewage treatment plants throughout the state, the Associated Press reported.

The total costs of the upgrades could be $1 billion statewide, the AP reported.

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