PORT DEPOSIT — County officials have awarded a $9.5 million contract to design and build a new Port Deposit sewer plant, with eyes set to what development may come to the Bainbridge property.

The multi-million dollar contract calls to replace the 40-year-old existing plant near Marina Park with a new one where Route 222 turns into Main Street.

American Contracting and Environmental Services Inc., based in Columbia, was awarded the contract, with KCI Technologies for design work and GHD Inc. to assist on construction management and inspection. The cost would be split between county funds and a Bay Restoration Fund Grant.

Sewage treatment capacity will be 150,000 gallons per day in the new plant, the same capacity as the existing plant.

But County Executive Alan McCarthy believes it will be enough to fuel whatever redevelopment is in store for the area surrounding the former U.S. Naval Training Center Bainbridge property and Port Deposit.

“I continue to believe that the prospects for Bainbridge are bright, and this new wastewater treatment plant is a key piece of the infrastructure needed to make it happen,” McCarthy said in a press release announcing the contract.

On-site construction is expected to start in late fall 2019, with completion targets in early 2021. Once the new plant comes online, the current one will be decommissioned and demolished.

Amidst mounting issues in 2009, the county took ownership of the town’s wastewater system while the town sold its water operation to Artesian Water.

For years, the county’s Department of Public Works has attempted to upgrade the aging sewer plant, since the steel effluent tank at its heart started to rust. Officials sought to replace it, but when no bids came through, they changed course and planned a regional sewer treatment plant on top of the hill and ready to serve future developments at Bainbridge.

But when a regional sewer treatment plant’s cost estimate came in around $20 million and uncertainty around Bainbridge’s prospects continued, the county once again changed course to address Port Deposit’s pressing needs, Cecil County DPW Director Scott Flanigan said.

“It’s not at risk for imminent failure, but we need to replace it. The walls of the tank are getting thinner, and they don’t last forever,” he told the Whig. “We’ve been trying for years to get this replaced, and it’s needed to be replaced for quite some time.”

Original bid documents requested a plant with a 65,000 gallons per day capacity with the option to expand in the future. That would have been more than double the current flows from Port Deposit, but a more than 50% decrease in available capacity, according to county officials.

But the Bainbridge Development Corporation — which is tasked with the redevelopment of the site — estimated that to treat sewage coming from a full development of the former U.S. Navy training base would need three to five times more than that capacity based on state guidelines.

With experience from several warehouse projects across the county, and with nearby mobile home communities with separate treatment systems that may want to opt in to the county’s service down the line, DPW decided to increase the future plant’s treatment capacities sooner than later.

At that point, the county was able to negotiate with American Contracting and Environmental Services to revise their original proposal.

“We were looking to expand [the plant] at some point in time, and this essentially made the expansion immediate,” he told the Whig. “It’s impossible to say what the future will bring, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

The new plant will also treat sewage at a much higher level than the current plant, specifically targeting nitrogen or phosphorus. State officials identify that high levels of those two nutrients as significant threats to the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.

The Maryland Department of the Environment requires major sewer treatment plants to treat effluent at 3 milligrams per liter of nitrogen and 0.3 milligrams per liter of phosphorous, at the state’s “enhanced nutrient removal” treatment standards.

The future Port Deposit sewer treatment plant is not large enough to fall into the ENR standards, but the county opted to meet those standards anyway in order to improve water quality in the bay.

Carl Roberts, BDC chairman, applauded the announcement for addressing both the immediate needs of Port Deposit and the promise that Bainbridge holds.

“Building a new sewer plant puts the county in a position to better deal with raw sewage, for not just Bainbridge but Port Deposit as well. But with the increased capacity, it means it’s not a stumbling block for prospective developers. We’re very pleased,” he said.

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