Milton citizens got their first look at plans for a proposed new Tidewater Utilities wastewater treatment plant that, once completed, is expected to add as much as 30 percent to an average household bill.
The $11 million plant will be built on five acres along Sam Lucas Road, will have a capacity of 350,000 gallons per day and will allow Tidewater to remove a higher percentage of nutrients from wastewater. Tidewater plans to begin construction in early 2020 and be complete by mid-2021. Treated effluent will continue to empty into the Broadkill River.
With the new plant, Tidewater anticipates an increase in the average wastewater bill. Tidewater Director of Engineering Brian Carbaugh said the current average rate is $760 per unit per year, a number that is anticipated to go up to an average of $1,000 per year per unit. However, Carbaugh said the rate is determined by the amount of water the individual homeowner uses.
At a July 25 public information session, Carbaugh said the current plant was built by the town in the 1960s. He said in the 1980s, the plant was upgraded; biological treatment of raw waste improved the effluent quality but did little to remove nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorus.
In 2007, the town sold the plant to Tidewater, coinciding with new state regulations including total maximum daily load standards, which limit nutrients in plant effluent. Carbaugh said the total maximum daily load for the Broadkill River is 36.5 pounds of nitrogen per day.
“The existing plant doesn’t really have a way to control its nitrogen removal,” he said.
Carbaugh said the plant serves 1,600 customers and treats 180,000 gallons per day meeting total maximum daily load standards. But if the town continues to grow, he said, the current plant would go over its allowable daily load.
“It’s right at that limit now,” Carbaugh said.
Town officials have made clear for years the town wants to get the plant off the Broadkill River. Land was not available until Loblolly LLC, the property management arm of WBOC-owner Draper Holdings purchased 80 acres on Sam Lucas Road. Loblolly gave 10 acres to the town, which then gave five acres to Tidewater for the plant.
Carbaugh said besides the plant, Tidewater plans to upgrade its main pump station on Front Street and upgrade the company’s pipe system. Carbaugh said there will likely be temporary one-lane traffic during pipe construction, but Tidewater does not anticipate road closures.
At one point, Carbaugh was asked whether he would drink the treated water that ends up in the Broadkill. He did not say yes, but he said he would swim in it, and there should be no effects on fish.
Finally, Carbaugh said the plant will be set back in the rear of the property, landscaped and fenced in with a gate. The current plant on Front Street will be demolished, and the property will be returned to the town when the new plant is online.
Attending the meeting was Richard Porth, president of the Wagamon’s West Shores Civic Association, who said, “It seems very reasonable to me. I don’t mind paying an extra $250 per year if the Broadkill is going to get better. Some people will look at 20 percent or 30 percent and think that’s high. I don’t think it is. It seems eminently worth it.”