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City to pay an additional $700,000 for sewer project

June 16, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown will have to pay $700,000 more than expected for a sewage treatment plant expansion project that is to begin later this year, officials said Tuesday.

City Finance Director Alfred Martin told the City Council during its Tuesday work session that the added expense would cost the city about $50,000 more a year in interest payments.

Martin said the cost might be offset by an expected transfer from the state of money collected through the state's new "flush tax."

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That tax is a fee charged to public water and sewer customers and septic tank users that will be used to decrease pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The plant upgrades are aimed at decreasing the number of times the city's plant releases partially treated sewage water into Antietam Creek, Water and Sewer Manager David Shindle has said. Partially treated sewage can contain bacteria from human feces.

The city's original estimate for the project was about $4.6 million, said Earl Smith, a consultant with the firm Black & Veatch, which is working with the city on the project. The lowest bid, which the city likely will take, came in at $5.3 million.

During heavy rains, rainwater leaks into the sewage system and overloads the plant. If flows get too heavy, the plant can only run the sewage water through some of its decontamination processes, said Bob Rectanus, another consultant with Black & Veatch.

The partially treated water is not considered as dangerous during heavy rainfalls because it is diluted by the rain, but the creek has been closed for several days at a time because of the problem, Rectanus said.

The most recent release of partially treated water into the creek was Monday. Health officials said the release was due in part to a power outage, and in part to heavy rainfall.

Officials urged people to stay away from the creek until further notice.

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