ELKTON — County officials have signed a $2.2 million contract for a new sewer pump station and a sewer main to be built near Manchester Park, marking the beginning of the end for CECO Utilities’ operations.

Paid through a Maryland Department of the Environment emergency grant, Allan Myers Inc. of Fallston will extend county sewer service by early 2020. The plan covers 126 customers, including the including the Singerly Manor Assisted Living facility, that CECO sought to abandon years earlier.

At the moment, sewage from Manchester Park area is treated at a lagoon operated by CECO, just north of Johnstown Road, which discharges into a tributary of Little Elk Creek. But the lagoon, built years ago, no longer conforms to today’s more strict environmental regulations.

“Connecting the CECO system to the county’s Cherry Hill system is the obvious common sense solution,” County Department of Public Works Director Scott Flanigan said in a prepared statement.

County DPW will build a short gravity line, which will connect to the pump station that Allan Myers will construct just north of the lagoon. A force main, or a pressurized pipe that carries wastewater, will stretch from the new pump station up Route 213, and tie into existing sewer system near Academy Drive.

Sewage would then be treated at the Cherry Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant on Beauchamp Road.

For about seven years, CECO has tried to get out of the sewer business after it became clear that its user fees would not be enough to sustain services. CECO partners had bought the water and sewer operation in 2005, with aims to serve a nearby proposed housing development nearby. With the housing market crash, however, that development never materialized.

CECO’s owners told the Whig they made significant investments in the system, but 10 wells were going dry and $4 million of improvements would be needed to bring the lagoon up to code. With the small customer base paying the minimum use fee, CECO partners sold the water operations to Artesian Water in 2012. Attempts to abandon the sewer operation soon followed.

The Maryland Public Service Commission denied CECO’s petition, sparking negotiations between the company, state and the county to find a solution.

After five years, MDE had approved the emergency grant that allows the county to start bringing the wastewater treatment in-house, and allows CECO to walk away without putting the extra financial burden on taxpayers.

The $2.85 million MDE grant covers construction, as well as design from KCI Technologies Inc. and consulting engineering work from Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP.

The state funds do not cover decommissioning the lagoon, but the county has an outstanding MDE grant application for $2 million. Discussions about decommissioning the lagoon — and who is responsible — are still ongoing, officials said.

But for now, there is more than enough capacity at the Cherry Hill plant to include the 30,000 gallons a day from former CECO customers. The Cherry Hill plant has a 250,000-gallons-a-day capacity and flows less than 100,000 gallons a day.

“The issue of what to do about CECO has been festering for years and I am delighted that we are moving forward with this project,” County Executive Alan McCarthy said in a prepared statement. “It will help protect public health and the environment, not only in the Manchester Park area but also throughout the Little Elk Creek watershed.”

Construction on the project is expected to start in August.

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