I am very concerned that Cecil County is about to commit to a $40 million project that is not necessary and will obligate the water sewer customers and tax payers to fund a very large bill.
On March 19th the Cecil County Council voted 3 - 2 in support of a revised Consent Order with MDE regarding the timeline that Seneca Point (NEWWTP) become ENR (Enhanced Nutrient Removal) Compliant with the State of Maryland. I (and Councilman Dunn) voted against the consent order because it was based on a timeline that assumed we would be incorporating a $40 million Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) System into the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) to achieve the state mandated ENR Standard. But we could accomplish the same goal with a $10 million denitrification system according to our consultant, GHD - and an MDE Grant would fully fund the project.
So the question is why would we spend $40 million to get to ENR if we can achieve it with the fully funded $10 million denitrification system? The justification seems to be in the argument that we need to plan for the future and that there is a possibility we will not be able to accommodate all of the anticipated growth past 2035.
Why pay $40 million now when we are not anticipated to reach capacity until 2035 to 2040? Why would we pay $40 million when treatment plant upgrades are usually funded through hookup costs? We are putting the cart before the horse in making the current users bear the costs for the MBR System which is reflected in the water sewer customer increases of 4% for 3 years in the proposed FY 2014 budget. These increases will not cover the cost which means the rest of the tax payers will have to pay either through increased taxes or taking from fund balance.
Another factor we should keep in mind is that environmental regulations do change and we may have to upgrade to another system in the future even before we utilize the benefit of the MBR System.
Why would we commit to an expensive system when there will probably be newer and cheaper technology to select from in the future? Just a few of the revolutionary new technologies which are significantly reducing the cost and operations of WWTPs include Biomag as well as a new product developed by Lockheed Martin, desalination graphene filters which won the Nobel Prize in 2010.
Why are we anticipating that the growth will happen on the west end of the county and not the east? If the demand is located in the eastern area and we've already invested a substantial amount of our financial resources into Seneca Point, it would limit our ability to be responsive.
I propose that we go through with the denitrification system for now because it’s already been funded and approved by MDE and in the distant future when we get closer to our WWTP capacity, conduct pilot tests and comparison studies to base our ultimate selection on.
With limited resources, investments should be strategic. Our priority should be to close up the infrastructure gap on the growth corridor which would attract new businesses and in turn helps fund upgrades to our treatment plants. How many times do we need to make the same mistakes?