Of the many questions regarding the application of wastewater spray irrigation for Ocean Pines or any other area, the least critical is whether public health will be adversely affected.
Strict environmental regulation and monitoring of effluent used in spray irrigation have eliminated the public health concern, as has been evidenced all across the Eastern Shore. What, then, are the most critical factors? That would be money, soil composition and the lay of the land.
They all go together. Money can’t make clay absorb enough water to prevent runoff, just like having acres of loam means nothing if the finances don’t work.
There’s no argument among environmental experts that spray irrigation is the better method of wastewater disposal than the old standard of discharging it into nearby waterways. Time was, no one questioned this latter approach, as communities pumped effluent into the river, and it was gone forever. Except, as we now know, that it wasn’t.
Nutrients and chemicals in treated wastewater didn’t vanish with the tides as we pretended, but remained to damage the riverine ecosystems.
With ground application of wastewater, however, the soil filters these chemicals and nutrients as the water seeps into the earth. It isn’t perfect, but it is better … unless you can’t pay for it.
The cost of converting the Eagle’s Landing Golf Course to accept spray irrigation from the Mystic Harbour wastewater system was more than $3 million. The Town of Berlin’s second spray irrigation site near Newark cost $3.5 million, and the price tag on the county’s Newark project launched last May was expected to be in the $2 million range.
But even then, the key to the successes of those operations was that land with the right soil, the right slope and the right location was available. Maybe Ocean Pines has that in the golf course, and maybe it doesn’t. That would be the first thing to find out, then the business of finding the money will determine what happens next.