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Hagerstown officials seeking to reduce Antietam pollutants

February 20, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown city officials took steps this week to further reduce pollutants emitted into Antietam Creek by the city's sewage plant.

The mayor and City Council gave preliminary approval at Tuesday night's work session to join the state's Enhanced Nutrient Removal program, which it is estimated will cost the city more than $4 million.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich has proposed that the portions of the program covered by the state be paid for by his Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Fund.

Under the funding bill, residential public sewer customers across the state would be charged $2.50 a month and commercial customers would be charged on a per-gallon of sewage basis. After some citizens balked at the proposal, the source of money to pay for the sewer upgrades is uncertain, city officials said.

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If the city adopts the measure, it first would have a study done on the sewer system. The study will cost the city approximately $18,750, said Rockville-based environmental consultant Bob Rectanus, who conducted a preliminary cost analysis for the city.

According to a plan presented Tuesday, the state would cover about 87 percent of the study cost, and also would pay for three-quarters of the engineering phase and half of the construction phase.

The city's portion of the projected cost would be $4,013,750, and the state would pay $4,686,250, Rectanus said.

In September 2000, the city completed $7.2 million in improvements to the treatment system to meet state standards. The state shared the cost, paying $3.6 million.

The pollutants the governor's program is targeting are nitrogen and phosphorous, which are basic elements found in human waste as well as household products. In large quantities, nitrogen and phosphorous can cause poisonous conditions in streams, rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, Rectanus said.

Rectanus said that after the 2000 upgrades, the city releases about 535 pounds of nitrogen and about 120 pounds of phosphorous into the Antietam Creek daily. The upgrades will bring the city's plant in line with the governor's proposals, which would translate at current rates of discharge to about 200 pounds of nitrogen and 20 pounds of phosphorous a day.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said during the Tuesday night work session he supported looking into the program.

Mayor William M. Breichner also said he would support the initial phase of the program, but pushed for a guarantee from the state that it would pay its share of the costs and no less.

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