Worcester County Water and Sewer Advisory Council

Preliminary discussions about using treated wastewater for irrigating Ocean Pines Golf course took place during the Worcester County Water and Sewer Advisory Council meeting on Monday.

(Feb. 14, 2020) The possibility of using treated wastewater to irrigate Ocean Pines Golf course was examined during the Worcester County Water and Sewer Advisory Council meeting on Monday.

Worcester County Deputy Director of Public Works John Ross and OPA General Manager of Golf Operations John Malinowski have been working on a cost estimate of such a project, but have yet to arrive at a figure, and County Public Works Director John Tustin said the need to replace the course irrigation systems is still being explored.

One problem of converting to spraying effluent is the age of the existing irrigation system. Ocean Pines Service Area Water and Wastewater Advisory Board member Jack Collins said the golf irrigation infrastructure dates back about half a century.

“I don’t know how much pressure those pipes can stand,” he said.

Advisory board member Fred Stiehl asked if other courses in the county use the spray irrigation approach and was told that Ocean City’s Eagle’s Landing Golf Course began doing that last summer.

“We reduced the amount of water they have to pull out of the ground,” he told committee members. “We got rid of the effluent from the Mystic Harbour Treatment Plant.”

Ross said spray effluent is also being used at the Glen Riddle Golf Club and River Run Golf Course in Berlin. “There are certain setbacks we have to maintain,” he said. “Depending on quality of water, setbacks go away totally.”

Stiehl suggested that those operations and the results be monitored as Ocean Pines considers what it might do.

“You’re monitoring what’s happening at these places,” he said. “There are a lot of questions … before we move ahead, and we need to keep asking those questions.”

Ross said Worcester County has included $25,000 in next year’s budget to study the use of spray effluent at the Pines golf course.

“In the meantime, we will gather information from the golf course [about the] irrigation system,” he said.

Once funding becomes available in July, when the new county budget takes effect, the study can be conducted, Ross said.

“Ultimately, we will have to incur cost for bringing a specialist in,” he said.

OPA General Manager John Viola said the board of directors had agreed to proceed with the preliminary study.

OPA Treasurer Larry Perrone said an initial concern is the cost to OPA membership.

“We need to see what the numbers are,” he said.

Stiehl, however, said health concerns should override cost considerations.

“The cost is going to be borne by the ratepayers one way or the other,” he said.

Pines resident Joe Reynolds said the expenditure should be covered by Worcester County because of the inclusion of residents who live outside of Ocean Pines but who are still connected to the Ocean Pines sewer service area.

“Any expense made on the plant has to be paid for by the ratepayers in the district,” he said.

Perrone agreed that any benefits would reach beyond the community.

“The overall benefit is not just Ocean Pines,” he said.

Stiehl said spraying effluent on the golf course would also eliminate tapping drinking water supplies.

“One of the concerns was Ocean Pines was pulling water out of the aquifer that we use for drinking water to water the golf course,” he said.

Stiehl also inquired when effluent water would be likely to hit grass.

Ross said the approval process would take at least two years, but more likely twice that time.

“You’re going to have to get the study done, put the number to it [and] then go find the money,” he said.

Ross said the use of spray irrigation effluent also has the potential to reduce nutrient levels in the St. Martin River.

“You can’t discount that because that is a selling point,” he said.

To advance the matter, Stiehl proposed that Worcester County and Ocean Pines form a work group to determine the costs.

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