Viola calls for town hall to help educate residents
Funding for a feasibility study to spray highly treated effluent on the Ocean Pines Golf Course is included in a Worcester County budget request, according to County Deputy Public Works Director John Ross.
Ross and others discussed the proposal during an Ocean Pines Water and Wastewater Advisory Board meeting on Monday.
He said several area golf courses already use county treated effluent for irrigation. Eagle’s Landing started last summer, Riddle Farm sprays on all 36 holes, and the back nine at Lighthouse Sound also uses highly treated effluent from the county, Ross said. He also mentioned River Run and Assateague Point.
A proposal for a similar operation in Ocean Pines originated from the Water and Wastewater Advisory Board, late last year.
“Highly treated effluent” refers to the water meeting current Bay Restoration standards of the Maryland Department of the Environment. County Public Works Director John Tustin previously 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).
Before anything moves forward in Ocean Pines, however, “We need to put numbers to it and see what those numbers do,” Ross said. The proposed fiscal year 2020/2021 Ocean Pines Service Area budget includes $25,000 for an independent feasibility study. Ross said those funds, if approved, would be available starting in July.
After that, he said the county would look for grants and/or bond money to help overhaul the irrigation system at the Ocean Pines Golf Course.
Repayment of any bond would likely not come from the Ocean Pines assessment, but rather through county utility charges spread out over several years. One estimate called for increases of $2-$3 per quarter, while projections to replace the irrigation system currently range from $1 million to $3 million.
The existing system is more than 50 years old and cannot handle spraying treated effluent. According to Ocean Pines records, the Association has spent upwards of $850,000 for repairs and maintenance of the system, since 1992, for an average of about $30,000 per year.
If the project were to move forward, it would likely be a two-to-four-year process before spraying started, Ross said.
Ocean Pines General Manager John Viola, during the meeting, said the Association was “in favor of this very preliminary study,” but that he and other officials need much more information.
“That’s why we’re here – to learn and understand,” he said.
Board member Larry Perrone added, “From a theoretical standpoint we’re in favor of this, but we need to see what the numbers do.”
Advisory Board member Jack Collins agreed any decision was “putting the cart before the horse” until more information is gathered.
Other Advisory Board members said concerns about the existing system include that Ocean Pines currently pulls drinking water from an aquifer to irrigate the course. Ross said using treated effluent for irrigation instead of drinking water was a practice endorsed by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
“This is exactly what they’re encouraging people to do,” he said.
Viola, on Tuesday, said there are plans to hold a town hall within in the next few weeks, to help further educate the public on the proposal.