Work begins next month at the largest sewage treatment plant in St. Mary’s County to reduce the levels of harmful nutrients being pumped into the Chesapeake Bay.
The Marlay-Taylor Water Reclamation Facility in Lexington Park handles 4 million gallons of wastewater a day, and has the capacity to handle 6 million gallons. Its treated effluent is pumped two miles out into the bay. The treatment of that wastewater will be upgraded to enhanced nutrient removal to reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which degrade water quality and indirectly lead to aquatic kills.
The current sewage treatment produces around 8 milligrams of nitrogen per liter. The new process brings that down to 3 milligrams per liter. The Marlay-Taylor plant is permitted to produce 73,093 pounds of nitrogen a year after the upgrade, which will be a reduction of 48,379 pounds per year.
It’s part of the state’s effort to reduce the nitrogen load from sewage treatments by 7.5 million pounds per year. All of Maryland’s 67 major sewage treatment plants discharging into the bay have been or are being upgraded. Customers on public sewer pay $5 a month on their utility bills to help pay for the work.
The Marlay-Taylor project cost is $39.1 million, $31.6 million of which for construction. The Bay Restoration Fee provides $10.4 million. The U.S. Navy is contributing money to the project as well, as it has dedicated capacity at the plant.
“There’s going to be a lot going on over the next 630 days,” said Duwayne Potter, superintendent of the plant. Many of the old buildings dating back to 1968 will be removed and replaced. “It’s going to be a huge change for us. We’re all really excited,” he said.
With the new treatment technology, “I think we’re going to become a showcase in what can be done in our business,” said Dan Ichniowski, director of the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission. MetCom’s budget to operate Marlay-Taylor this year is $3.6 million. It is not yet known how much it will cost to operate the plant once the upgrades are completed, Ichniowski said this week.
And while the work is underway, people will continue to flush their toilets. “We have to keep this plant operating while under construction,” he said.
The target date for completion is July 2015 and the plant should come into compliance with the Maryland Department of the Environment by the end of 2016, he said.
The Maryland Department of the Environment says the main three contributors to nitrogen into the Chesapeake Bay are sewage treatment plants, and urban and agricultural runoff.
At the ground-breaking ceremony Thursday afternoon at Marlay-Taylor, several aircraft flew overhead from Patuxent River Naval Air Station next door. “All of us working together allows naval aviation to accomplish what it needs,” said Capt. Benjamin Shevchuk, commanding officer of the Navy base. “Without you the Navy isn’t going to sail. The beauty of the bay is increased by the work you do here every day.”
Potter took Shevchuk on a tour of the facility and showed him where the inflow comes into the plant, where a gate catches large items that shouldn’t be in the stream. Caught in that gate, “we’ve had money, rings, watches, dentures,” Potter said.