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STEVENSVILLE – The EPA sited “excellence and innovation” this week when they recognized Queen Anne’s County’s Southern Kent Island Sewer Project.
“For decades, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund has supported critical water infrastructure projects that help grow the American economy and support our way of life,” said Mike Shapiro, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “These projects are a testament to the power of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund in leveraging investment to meet the country’s diverse clean water needs.”
Queen Anne’s County is utilizing the fund to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by connecting 1,526 properties in the nine communities that had failing septic systems. Phase I of the project is currently underway connecting the 774 homes in Kent Island Estates and Romancoke.
This $55 million project is partially financed by a $34 million Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan for disadvantaged communities that include $1.2 million in loan forgiveness, a low 0.8 percent interest rate, and a 30-year repayment term.
The failing septic systems are generally on small lots with marginal soils and high groundwater. Upgrading Southern Kent Island to sewer service will not only remove 7,000 pounds of nitrogen each year from Chesapeake Bay, but will also benefit the communities by improving property values, all while keeping the project affordable at under $100 per month per customer, according to the EPA.
County Commissioner Mark Anderson said, "During the District Four Commissioner campaign in 2014, I had occasion to hear the reasons both pro and con on this public sewer project. After being elected to this office, I had the authority to get the facts versus the theories with converting many septic systems in South Kent Island to a public sewer processing plant. I had input from other jurisdictions with similar systems, input from our own sanitary engineers and health department professionals. My investigation found no small number of these septic drain fields on South Kent Island were failing, and based on soil hydrology, I knew many more were to follow. The real estate property market in South Kent Island was in disarray with an over-hang of pending health issues some properties could not be sold. The largest asset most people own is their home, and that asset was being devalued. The foreclosures appeared in good neighborhoods. The thoughts that too much traffic would clog Rt. 8 was lessened by lot consolidation required by loan from the state and this substantially cut the number of buildable lots in the service area.”
"When the time came to cast that critical vote, I voted to move ahead because the facts said that would be the fairest solution for the most, and this needed project passed 3-2," Anderson said. "A lot of work preceded that important vote including the General Assembly's help and the assistance of our partners in state government, without whom none of this improvement could have occurred. Lastly, we have a competent and devoted staff in our Health Department and the county Department of Public Works Department on whose professional expertise I found invaluable. This EPA recognition validates the creativity and joint effort on this the long road taken for a project and is the absolute right thing to do."