MES builds chemical-free treatment plant

Kirk Parks, an environmental systems supervisor at Maryland Environmental Service, stands in front of the MES wastewater treatment plant at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home which has been operating for almost three years. The treatment plant operates without chemicals.

Maryland Environmental Service has been operating since 1970, but the company’s approach to improving the environment is ever-growing.

In 2014, MES designed a membrane bio-reactor wastewater treatment plant for the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home. In this kind of treatment plant, wastewater is processed through a series of filters which are used to sift out different bacteria and metals, similar to a “Brita filter,” said Jason Gillespie, managing director for water/wastewater and environmental monitoring. But in MES’ plant, all of the filtering happens without chemicals — a concept that’s widely-accepted but puts MES “ahead of the curve,” Gillespie said.

In other wastewater treatment plants, chemicals are added to separate and break down solids, Gillespie said. Additional chemicals must then also be introduced to remove the previously-placed ones. Operating a plant without chemicals not only saves the company money but also provides an environmentally-friendly wastewater treatment plant, Gillespie said.

This MES plant helps with the goal to reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay, Gillespie said. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, these two chemicals in excess promote the growth of algal blooms, which hurt the waters in multiple ways: they prohibit sunlight from reaching underwater; deprive fish of oxygen, ultimately stressing or killing them; create a breeding ground for parasites; and have the potential to harm or kill other animals, such as dogs.

The levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the bay have been a growing concern for decades. From 1998 to 2016, the bay’s phosphorus levels increased from 15 to 28, being on a scale of 100, where a score of 70-100 denotes an A, according to CBF’s State of the Bay reports. In these same years, levels of nitrogen increased only slightly from 15 to 17. Overall in 2016, the bay’s condition was rated a C-minus, up from a D-plus in 2014, “but still a grade that is far from acceptable,” William C. Baker, CBF’s president, said in the 2016 report. The levels of nitrogen pollution were graded overall as an F, and phosphorus as a D.

MES is taking steps to aid in reducing these numbers. Their Charlotte Hall plant averages a discharge of only five milligrams of nitrogen per liter though their permit allows 13 milligrams per liter, Gillespie said in an email. The plant was designed to discharge no more than 7 milligrams per liter, he added.

In addition, MES’ plant allows for a maximum of 67,000 gallons of wastewater to be filtered every day, Gillespie said. They average about 30,000 per day, leaving “significant room for growth,” Gillespie said.

MES operates other membrane bio-reactor plants, such as at Rocky Gap State Park, but the technology is slightly different. “[The Charlotte Hall plant] was a great project for us. I think it represents what we’re trying to achieve …,” Gillespie said.

MES has been working with the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home since its opening in 1985, said Sharon Murphy, director of the veterans home. “We have a very good working relationship. Anytime we have any issues, we can contact them and vice versa. We know who we need to call if there are certain problems,” she said. The home currently has 454 beds with 410 residents, as of June 10, and employs over 500 workers.

Established in 1970, MES works with a multitude of companies and organizations to provide environmentally-friendly “operational and technical services to protect and enhance the environment,” according to its website.

Twitter: @AlexIndyNews

Twitter: @AlexIndyNews