by Jamie Welch, Grade 8, Worcester Preparatory School
The town of Berlin recently received $12 million dollars in grants and low-interest loans from the USDA Recovery Act. The purpose of these grants was to renovate and update the Berlin Wastewater Treatment plant. These upgrades are necessary because of the growing demand for wastewater treatment in the town of Berlin, and the new tough environmental requirements handed down by the State of Maryland and the EPA. When the updates are complete, the plant will be able to process effluent down to near drinking water quality.
I recently visited the wastewater treatment plant and took a look at how the money from the USDA is being used. Bearing Construction is the company in charge of overseeing the upgrades, some of which include reworking old equipment. Another part of the plan is the installation of a state-of-the-art piece of technology called an SBR, or Sequencing Batch Reactor. This device works with bacteria in three different chambers to get rid of most phosphorous and nitrogen, down to almost drinking water quality. “It’s a better quality than [the water] that most people get out of their wells,” said Jane Kreiter, Director of Water and Wastewater in Berlin. The treated effluent is then pumped by pipeline to a spray irrigation site on Purnell Crossing Road in Libertytown, Maryland where it is used to water trees and crops.
The town has plans in the works for a second spray irrigation site in Newark which, when competed, would eliminate the need for dumping treated effluent into the coastal bays. Many people are concerned about having the spray site in their backyards. Kreiter is quick to point out that in Florida, people are already using treated wastewater to clean their cars and water their plants. She says that the public is just not well informed on this, because we’ve never really had to conserve water like in Florida. Kreiter adds that the sprayed effluent will have no negative effects on the groundwater table and aquifers. The final decision about the new spray site will be made at a meeting of the Worcester County Commissioners some time in the near future. If approved, the spray irrigation project is projected to cost an additional $6 million.
Kreiter says that they hope to have the upgrade and expansion project in Berlin completed by December, but adds that the recent bad weather has pushed them far behind where they should be. When completed, this plant will be the largest wastewater treatment plant in Maryland that spray irrigates.