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Shepherdstown looking toward replacing its water plant

By Staff | Jul 5, 2013

It’s safe to say that the 2015 Chesapeake Bay regulations are on the minds of council members in many local municipalities.

With its wastewater treatment plant completed and up to regulation, Shepherdstown looks to begin work on its water plant.

Currently in the design stage, Frank Welch, director of public works for Shepherdstown, said he estimates the project to cost between $4 million and $5 million, although that number could vary depending on what types of technology and equipment are chosen for the project.

Shepherdstown is currently in the process of completing construction of its second new water tower, and Welch said he will be using the same engineer, Chapman Technical, for the water plant project.

“We are working little by little,” Welch said.

Mayor Jim Auxer said the town recently installed two new pumps at the existing water plant, which sits down at the end of Mill Street near the boat ramp, to get the water to the new water pumps, which sit higher than the old ones and needed stronger pumps to run.

Welch said the new pumps are adjustable so that if the town needs more water, the pumps can be turned up. Shepherdstown has a permit from the state of Maryland, who owns the Potomac River, to take 1 million gallons of water out of the river daily the average usage in Shepherdstown runs between 500,000 and 750,000 gallons, Welch said.

Although that was the first step, constructing a whole new plant is a much larger project and, like the wastewater plant, it requires that the town keep the existing plant running while the new one is being constructed – a process that can be costly.

“Our rates are high now, but (other municipalities) will soon have high rates too, because of the Chesapeake Bay regulations,” Auxer said, adding that not many in the town have had an issue with the requirements.

Auxer said that because Shepherdstown began work on the water systems early, the town was able to obtain a loan for the wastewater plant, the first project, at zero percent interest. Municipalities that are now looking to borrow money will be faced with a 3 percent interest rate.

“We saved about $6 million by doing that,” Auxer said.

The water projects, which include the wastewater plant, the water towers and new water plant, did raise the rates in town; however, Welch said, they are not planning to raise them again – it was a onetime raise for all the projects.

“We don’t want to raise the rates again,” Auxer said. “I would be raising my own rates too, and we don’t want that either.”

An additional benefit to starting work on all the Chesapeake Bay requirements early is that the staff has time to learn how the new systems work.

While Auxer said he would like to see work on the new water plant begin “next week,” Welch had a different timeline in mind.

“I would say next year sometime. We are working on that right now,” Welch said.