Centreville Not Happy With Maryland Environmental Services

“Centreville is exploring hiring its own water and wastewater facilities operations supervisor rather than continuing to outsource those responsibilities to Maryland Environmental Services. Public Works Director Greg Swartz told the Town Council July 16 that failure of relatively new equipment and instances of non-compliance under current operator MES indicate that the town would save money and gain improved performance at its treatment plants by having an operations supervisor who works directly for the town.

Although nine months of the year treated wastewater is transferred to the town’s spray irrigation facility, from December to March, the town’s permit allows discharge into Gravel Run. According to Swartz, “”because of some process problem, the amount of nitrogen”” released during stream discharge from the wastewater treatment plant last December “”exceeded what the permit stated.”” Although this and other cases of non-compliance have been reported to Maryland’s Department of the Environment, Swartz said in at least one case the town discovered an equipment failure, and the report by MES was made “”well past … the initial reporting deadline of 24 hours.””

Performance levels have not kept pace with the increased cost of having MES supervise the facilities, Swartz said. In fiscal year 2009, $370,000 was budgeted for MES to operate and conduct testing at the town’s treatment facilities. By the end of the fiscal year, Swartz said, the contractor was already $90,000 over budget. Council Member Tim McCluskey initially questioned Swartz’s recommendation. Conventional wisdom would predict that “”you are going to get a better quality (of operations service) if you outsource it,”” he said and added that perhaps the town should provide a “”list of best practices”” to the contractor for clarification.

Swartz, who formerly worked for MES, said he disagreed in this instance. “”You can’t cover it all in a book”” he said and added that “”(MES) should know what to do”” without such a list. Council members asked Swartz to compile a job description for their review and potential hiring of the supervisor that he recommended. “”A lot of very good design”” went into both the town’s new water and wastewater treatment facilities, Swartz said. With treatment facilities at Well 5 near the business park costing over $1.5 million and a cost of “”several million for the wastewater plant”” construction, he said, “”they should be showplaces.””

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