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City, MDE to meet regarding treatment plant upgrade

April 11, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN

City officials will meet with representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment within the next few weeks to discuss ways to fund an $8 million improvement project at the Hagerstown Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to Michael Spiker, the director of city utilities.

Enhanced nutrient removal technology has to be installed at the plant to comply with state mandates, he said.

Several wastewater treatment plants across the state must install the technology to help prevent pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus from running into the Chesapeake Bay, said Robert D. Ballinger II, Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman.

The program, known as the Bay Restoration Fund, was passed by the Maryland Senate in 2004.

Ballinger said the Hagerstown facility is one of the state's 66 major wastewater treatment facilities whose discharge winds up in the Bay and require the enhanced nutrient removal technology.

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The state collects a $2.50 monthly fee from each home that is served by a wastewater treatment plant and puts that money into a fund to help pay for the improvement costs, he said.

Commercial and industrial customers are charged $2.50 per month for every 250 gallons of wastewater that they produce daily, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment Web site.

The Maryland Department of the Environment estimates that the fees generate about $60 million annually.

Ballinger said municipalities also are permitted to charge fees to help pay costs associated with making improvements to wastewater treatment facilities.

Almost two weeks ago, the City of Hagerstown announced that in its proposed 2007-08 budget, sewer rates would increase 8.5 percent for customers living inside the city and 16 percent for customers living outside the city to help pay for improvements at the wastewater treatment plant.

Hagerstown Finance Director Alfred Martin said the typical rate increase for city sewer customers using 13,000 gallons per quarter would be from about $50.38 to $54.66.

The increase for customers living outside the city would be from about $82.67 to $95.90, he said.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said despite the proposed sewer rate increases, Hagerstown's sewer taxes would remain among the lowest in Washington County.

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