For some time I have felt the people of Ocean Pines were not being kept properly informed of the facts related to regionalization of the existing Ocean Pines water and sewer service areas.
Today (6/28/2004) I spoke with Mark Filer, Section Chief of the Maryland Department of Environment Source Protection and Appropriation Division. Filer's Division is responsible for determining who can draw what quantity of water from various aquifers in the State of Maryland, and issuing permits for water allocation.
Filer told me the current water allocation for Ocean Pines withdrawal from the Plestiocene Aquifer is 1.5 mgd (million gallons per day) annual daily average, while allowing any single month average daily withdrawal of 2.5 mgd. Total yearly withdrawal cannot exceed 1.5 X 365.
Ocean Pines at buildout is approximately 9240 EDUs (Equivalent Dwelling Units) and that would work out to a yearly average of 1.752 mgd, just over the current allocation of 1.5 mgd.
Filer said there are no applications in his office from Worcester County for additional water allocations at this time. He also said, "I'm not aware of any letter from MDE mandating that the next Ocean Pines well go into the Manokin aquifer." He added that Worcester County might well be thinking along those lines, based on a rejection some years ago for a 2.79 mgd withdrawal permit from the Pleistocene aquifer.
Filer also indicated his department has received no "feelers" related to some sort of a deal where the new Ocean Pines well could go into the Pleistocene aquifer rather than the Manokin aquifer if Pennington Commons were serviced by the Ocean Pines water service area. He would not comment on how such a proposal would be received.
He did indicate, however, that if Worcester County applied for a new well in the Pleistocene aquifer to increase the permitted allocation of 1.5 mgd to 1.72 mgd for the Ocean Pines area alone at buildout, such a allocation would receive serious consideration.
Filer also said that the latest test on Ocean Pines water indicates an iron content of 0.13 milligrams of iron per liter. Very low. By comparison, Riddle Farms was required to tap into the Manokin aquifer and the iron content of their water is 9.5 milligrams of iron per liter, requiring very expensive treatment. The math shows Riddle Farms water (Manokin aquifer) to have a iron content 73 times greater than the Ocean Pines water! Blending water from the Pleistocene and Manokin aquifers is a possibility and could eliminate the need for an expensive water treatment plant. However, blending would increase the iron content for current Ocean Pines water users, perhaps to a point where our water would have 10 times more iron than now.
Here's my take on these facts.
Long term we are looking at Worcester County increasing the sewage treatment capacity of Ocean Pines by an additional 0.7 mgd, enough to support an additional 2,800 EDUs outside the current Ocean Pines sewage service area. One can reasonably expect those 2,800 EDUs to also receive water from the current Ocean Pines service area.
Put the County's obvious intent to regionalize water together with the County's goal of increasing the Ocean Pines sewage treatment capacity to 3 mgd and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the intent is to expand both water and sewage to handle an additional 2,800 hookups beyond the current boundaries of Ocean Pines - perhaps six new subdivisions the size of Riddle Farms!
Given that MDE has not even received a request for additional water allocation for the Ocean Pines water service area, given the potential for needing an expensive water treatment plant, and expensive ongoing treatment, given the obvious and stated intention of the County to expand the sewer service area, and given other unknowns, it seems inconceivable that the Worcester County Commissioners, including Judy Boggs and Tom Cetola, the Ocean Pines Water and Sewer Advisory Board chaired by Dart Way, and the Ocean Pines Board of Directors (by essentially ignoring the issue) have approved the concept of regionalization of the current water service area when we have absolutely no idea of the long term impact on the people of the current Ocean Pines service area.
My concern isn't so much regionalization as an approach to providing water and sewage, rather that any regionalization effort not ultimately burden the people of the present Ocean Pines system with greater costs and/or lower quality water, while subsidizing developers with the infrastructure paid for by the people of Ocean Pines.
In my view, the Worcester County Commissioners should present the people of Ocean Pines with a clear and concise plan of their long term intentions regarding the regionalization of the current Ocean Pines water and sewer service areas before going ahead with regionalization at any level. Given the stakes involved, this seems like the fair and reasonable thing to do. The Ocean Pines Board of Directors should insist on it.
(Addendum 7/28/2004 - Since writing the above another aspect of the water sale has become public. Both Ocean Pines and River Run are watering 18-hole golf courses with water taken from the pure Plestiocene aquifer. Our county officials and Ocean Pines Water and Wastewater Advisory Committee are thus proposing to take iron-laced water from a poor quality aquifer and treat it at great expense for drinking, while dumping pure water on golf courses!)