County feasibility study next step in effluent water irrigation proposal 

Ocean Pines General Manager John Viola, with Senior Executive Secretary Michelle Bennett, discusses a county proposal to spray effluent water on the Ocean Pines Golf Course.

Ocean Pines is in the very early stages of considering a proposal to spray highly treated effluent on the Ocean Pines Golf Course.  

General Manager John Viola, during a public Board meeting Wednesday night, said the proposal came from the Ocean Pines Water and Wastewater Advisory Board. That panel is overseen by Worcester County.  

County officials approached Viola in December for preliminary talks, he said. On Jan. 7, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a request from the Wastewater Advisory Board to evaluate the project. 

Local newspaper The Dispatch last month reported that County Public Works Director John Tustin said the project “would produce both practical and environmental benefits,” and the evaluation would include costs, funding sources, and potential regulatory hurdles.  

Tustin later told Ocean Pines the “highly treated effluent” refers to the water meeting current Bay Restoration standards of the Maryland Department of the Environment. Tustin said effluent nitrogen levels would be at or below 3 milligrams per liter (or three parts per million), and phosphorus at or below 1 milligram per liter (or one part per million). 

“We are below that requirement on a yearly average, thus avoiding the payment into the states Bay Restoration Fund, saving the OPA ratepayers $15 per quarter on the water/sewer billing,” Tustin said in an email. 

“[I’ve been told that’s] very, very low – very good results for effluent water,” Viola added.  

Three area golf courses – Eagle’s Landing, River Run and Glen Riddle – already use county effluent in their irrigation systems.  

“The project would require a new irrigation system for the golf course,” Viola said. “The current Golf irrigation system is more than 50 years old and would need to be replaced, if we did something like this.” 

Funding for the replacement system would almost certainly come from grants and/or slight increases to county water/sewer bills, estimated to go up $2-$3 per quarter, according to county officials. This would not affect the Ocean Pines assessment, but would impact Ocean Pines utility bills spread out in small increments, over time. A new system is estimated to cost anywhere from $1 million to $3 million. 

Viola said the next step would be a feasibility study done by Worcester County.  

“Nothing has been decided, nothing’s etched in stone,” Viola said. “They are doing a feasibility study on this use of effluent water.” 

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