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ELKTON — On May 22, the $7.1-million Harbourview Wastewater Treatment Plant went online as part of the ambitious statewide initiative to improve water quality.

Serving 120 households south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the new wastewater treatment plant aims not only improve water quality but to also meet mandated nutrient levels entering the Elk River.

“The Harbourview wastewater treatment plant is located in a residential neighborhood, in relatively close proximity to several houses,” said Scott Flanigan, director of Public Works, in a press release from the county. “Unlike the old plant, the new plant’s primary treatment processes are enclosed within a building which should help to control noise and odors.

“That is part of our ongoing effort to be good neighbors to the community.”

Since 1976, the Harbourview plant had been in operation at 79 Dartmouth Road. Modernizing this infrastructure was part of a major statewide investment to meet higher effluent treatment standards in order to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The new Cecil County construction included a membrane bioreactor that removes “significantly more nutrients” than conventional standards from wastewater before treated discharge enters Herring Creek, the county reported in a Tuesday release.

MDE requires that treatment plants with capacities of 500,000 gallons per day or more treat effluent at 3 milligrams per liter of nitrogen and 0.3 milligrams per liter of phosphorous per the “enhanced nutrient removal” (ENR) treatment standards.

In a 2018 interview with the Cecil Whig, Flanigan said that since the Harbourview plant is smaller, the state did not require Cecil County to upgrade. Instead, the county is doing so willingly, the Whig reported.

The new plant is expected to improve discharges into the Chesapeake Bay (by way on the Elk River) by reducing 83 percent of nitrogen and 90 percent of phosphorus.

Cecil County’s Harbourview Wastewater Treatment Plant was one of several major projects that received Bay Restoration Funds grants and loans to “help us to green and grow the state’s economy and lead in the race to protect and restore Chesapeake Bay watersheds,” Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said at the time the $6.8-million pot was announced.

MDE hopes to reduce 20 million pounds of nitrogen per year and 1 million pounds of phosphorus with these funds. Using enhanced nutrient removal technologies to limit these elements from entering waterways, oxygen levels will be sustained and continue supporting aquatic life. When oxygen levels are decreased by nutrients, life underwater is negatively impacted Once achieved, the expectation is that these plants will reduce one-third of the pollution goal under the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Agreement.

“The previous treatment plant served the Harbourview community for many decades, but it has needed to be replaced for some time now,” said County Executive Alan McCarthy in a press release.

“The new plant is state-of-the-art and will treat the wastewater to a much higher level, which will help to improve the water quality in Herring Creek and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.”

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