Why would anyone agree to pay $30 million for a project that should only cost the County $3 million? That’s exactly what happened on May 21st when Council members Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby voted to support the Seneca Point Waste Water Treatment Plant Project which incorporates the Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) Filters. While it’s a fact that Seneca Point is mandated to go to Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR), our consultant (GHD) has stated and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has verified that the denitrification filter is the cheapest way to meet this standard.
However, the 3 council members voted for MBR despite Director Flanigan’s failure to provide justification and even after the Citizen’s Budget Advisory unanimously voted in opposition and President Hodge had previously agreed Director Flanigan should have to show comparison data. Also, a concerned citizen, Ron Hartman, who retired from the waste water treatment supply business, conducted research on his own and seriously questioned this decision.
Council members Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby claimed Director Flanigan met the burden because he’s the expert and chastised me for questioning his decision. Why wouldn’t they question him after it was discovered that Director Flanigan intentionally withheld information? The Board of County Commissioners and the Council were never provided letters from MDE and our Consultant (GHD) confirming that denitrification filters were the most inexpensive way to get ENR. Instead Director Flanigan advised the Board of Commissioners that there was a $60 million ENR project which MDE was mandating and the Commissioners needed to figure out how they were going to fund it. It was Treasurer Bill Feehley who mentioned the existence of the MDE and GHD letters when he agreed that the MBR Project was unnecessary and costly . (Both the MDE and GHD letters are posted on this website)
After I received copies of the letters in question, I forwarded to Councilman Dunn and previous Commissioner Mullin for their feedback and they emphatically agreed that it shed a whole different light on the cost and true scope of the ENR project.
Continuing his pattern of deceit, Director Flanigan also misled the Council with his statement on April 16, 2013 that the Board of County Commissioners had already committed to the MBR Project on August 16, 2011 during a Commissioner Meeting. To get a more informed idea on what that vote entailed on August 16, 2011, you had to listen to the work session audio in which Commissioner Hodge verified with Director Flanigan that this vote only obligated the County to spend $100,000 to complete engineering design using the GE MBR Zeenon Filter and did not obligate the County to commit to the MBR Process.
Why would anyone support this project if our consultant (GHD) and MDE confirmed that the denitrification filters are the most inexpensive way to get to ENR and would only cost the county around $3 million to complete? Why would the County Executive and the 3 council members not require their expert to provide evidence when so many concerns have been raised that we are wasting $40 million? Developers have already verified that the drastically increased hook up costs will only drive away business and rate payers have strongly objected that they will have to pay increased fees towards these capital costs. But everyone should be objecting because increased hookup fees and rates will not even begin to cover this debt and then it will be all the taxpayers who end up paying the bill.: