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The Start of a Wastewater Sea Change on the East Coast?

April 05 2010 | Know Your H20,
by Rick Wilson

Two articles came to my attention today.

First, in Maryland, officials in Howard County want reuse of wastewater to be the new standard for big projects, because of worries that tightening federal and state restrictions on nitrogen entering the bay could eventually outstrip the capacity of the county wastewater treatment plant on the Little Patuxent River in Savage.

"It's better for the environment, and it's a response to how we're going to grow effectively," said County Executive Ken Ulman. Officials are applying it now to two projects: the redevelopment of downtown Columbia and a 325-home community at historic Doughoregan Manor in Western Ellicott City that might get public water and sewer service.

This new policy in Maryland stands out in stark contrast to the situation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where officials seem poised to waste resources and pollute the ocean by constructing a new ocean outfall.

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, towns are rightly discontinuing the use of polluting septic systems, but instead of a large centralized wastewater treatment system, they are being encouraged to consider the alternative of distributed wastewater treatment systems, utilizing current state-of-the-art package treatment plants. In addition to often being less expensive, decentralized treatment plants recharge the groundwater locally instead of removing it to another watershed. Decentralized treatment plants may also facilitate beneficial reuse of treated wastewater, which is often ruled out by the pumping and piping costs associated with re-distributing water from a centralized facility.
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