EPA cites SKI sewer project as ex­am­ple

The Star Democrat - - LOCAL -

STEVENSVILLE — The EPA cited “ex­cel­lence and in­no­va­tion” this week when it rec­og­nized Queen Anne’s County’s South­ern Kent Is­land Sewer Sys­tem.

“For decades, the Clean Wa­ter State Re­volv­ing Fund has sup­ported crit­i­cal wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture projects that help grow the Amer­i­can econ­omy and sup­port our way of life,” said Mike Shapiro, act­ing as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor for EPA’s Of­fice of Wa­ter. “Th­ese projects are a tes­ta­ment to the power of the Clean Wa­ter State Re­volv­ing Fund in lever­ag­ing in­vest­ment to meet the coun­try’s di­verse clean wa­ter needs.”

Queen Anne’s County is us­ing the fund to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay by even­tu­ally con­nect­ing all 1,526 prop­er­ties in the nine com­mu­ni­ties that had fail­ing sep­tic sys­tems. Phase I of the project is cur­rently un­der­way and con­nect­ing the 774 homes in Kent Is­land Es­tates and Ro­man­coke.

This $55 mil­lion project is par­tially fi­nanced by a $34 mil­lion CWSRF loan for dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties that in­cludes $1.2 mil­lion in loan for­give­ness, a low 0.8 per­cent in­ter­est rate, and a 30-year re­pay­ment term.

Ac­cord­ing to the county, the fail­ing sep­tic sys­tems are gen­er­ally on small lots with mar­ginal soils and high ground­wa­ter. Up­grad­ing south­ern Kent Is­land to sewer ser­vice will not only re­move 7,000 pounds of ni­tro­gen each year from Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, but will also ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity by im­prov­ing prop­erty val­ues, all while keep­ing the project af­ford­able at un­der $100 per month per cus­tomer, ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

County Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son said, “Dur­ing the Dis­trict Four com­mis­sioner cam­paign in 2014, I had oc­ca­sion to hear the rea­sons both pro and con on this pub­lic sewer project. Af­ter be­ing elected to this of­fice, I had the au­thor­ity to get the facts ver­sus the the­o­ries with con­vert­ing many sep­tic sys­tems in south Kent Is­land to a pub­lic sewer pro­cess­ing plant. I had in­put from other ju­ris­dic­tions with sim­i­lar sys­tems, in­put from our own sanitary en­gi­neers and health de­part­ment pro­fes­sion­als.”

“My in­ves­ti­ga­tion found no small num­ber of th­ese sep­tic drain fields on south Kent Is­land were fail­ing, and based on soil hy­drol­ogy, I knew many more were to fol­low,” he said. “The real es­tate prop­erty mar­ket in south Kent Is­land was in dis­ar­ray with an over-hang of pend­ing health is­sues some prop­er­ties could not be sold.”

“The largest as­set most peo­ple own is their home, and that as­set was be­ing de­val­ued. The fore­clo­sures ap­peared in good neigh­bor­hoods,” he said. “The thoughts that too much traf­fic would clog Rt. 8 was less­ened by lot con­sol­i­da­tion re­quired by loan from the state and this sub­stan­tially cut the num­ber of build-able lots in the ser­vice area.”

“When the time came to cast that crit­i­cal vote, I voted to move ahead be­cause the facts said that would be the fairest so­lu­tion for the most, and this needed project passed 3-2,” An­der­son said. “A lot of work pre­ceded that im­por­tant vote in­clud­ing the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s help and the as­sis­tance of our part­ners in state gov­ern­ment, with­out whom none of this im­prove­ment could have oc­curred.”

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Phase I work of the Kent Is­land Sewer Project cur­rently un­der­way to con­nect homes in Kent Is­land Es­tates and Ro­man­coke to sewer ser­vice.

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