Ocean City Today

Development goes where wastewater flows in Worcester

By Brian Gilliland | Nov 30, 2017

(Dec. 1, 2017) Wastewater treatment and disposal is one of the major factors in the growth and development of Worcester County, and a big piece of that — irrigating the Eagle’s Landing golf course with treated effluent — should go live early next year.

As a result, the Mystic Harbour Wastewater treatment plant can tap into its true potential, and the surrounding service area can be opened to more development than has been possible.

Currently, the plant operates at a rate of about 220,000 treated gallons per day, but the is capable of being scaled up to handle up to 450,000 and 600,000 gallons per day. The limiting factor is what to do with the treated effluent.

The county has been using injection wells, which delivers water underground into porous rock or into the shallow soil layer, but tops off at 250,000 gallons per day capacity.

That limit sets the line for how much development can be handled by county services, and it is one of the county commissioners’ goals to remove as many septic systems in favor of central services as possible.

At first, the thought was to dispose of the effluent at the airport, but a number of factors stopped that idea from progressing. Next, a deal was struck between Worcester County and Ocean City to use the city-owned golf course as a disposal site.

Since June, the infrastructure that would spread the treated wastewater on the golf course has been in operation as a simple sprinkler system as a sort of “soft launch” to stress test the pipes and equipment.

“We used the system this summer and it worked beautifully. We had to make some adjustments, and we were hoping it would have happened by now, but there are always a few things to work out and we understand,” Susan Petito, director of Ocean City Parks and Recreation said.

Last Tuesday, the commissioners approved the bid documents for the final construction phase of the project: tying the sprinkler system into the disposal system.

With allowances for weather and conditions such as the ground freezing, county public works Director John Tustin estimates the project will be completed in March.

“They have to do like, four pieces, and only one of them impacts the golf course,” Joe Perry, golf superintendent at Eagle’s Landing, said. “It’s one spot near the 12th tee, and the county has structured the bid so as to not interfere with play.”

Installing the sprinklers last year did affect play, Perry said.

As for golfers concerned with the condition of their shoes after walking on greens irrigated with treated effluent, Perry said there is no cause for concern.

“We’re basically spraying water. The wastewater treatment plant is state-of-the art, and the effluent is approved to be released into surface waters. It’s one step below reverse osmosis, which means it’s basically potable water,” he said.

Which doesn’t mean they’re just spraying it everywhere.

The golf course has five acres of ponds, with three of its ponds connected. Perry said the effluent would be released into the first, while the irrigation water is drawn up from the third, so the treatment plant’s discharge is well mixed with surface water before being used for irrigation.

The total cost estimate for the project is $500,000, according to Tustin, and will be paid for entirely with United States Department of Agriculture funds.

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