BERLIN – A years long search for more spray irrigation land is closer to paying off, after the town of Berlin identified a 200-acre tract near Newark with strong spray disposal potential.
The Berlin Mayor and Council last week voted to accept a contract giving the town right of first refusal on purchasing the 200-acre site, which also allows the town onto the property to conduct necessary environmental testing before final purchase.
The right of first refusal allows the town to buy the land by matching any other offer for the property if another buyer comes forward.
“In the beginning, it was a very, very arduous process that in the last few months is starting to bear fruit,” Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said. “This could take care of our spray irrigation needs for a generation or more.”
The property, on Five Mile Branch Road, looks like it has the suitable combination of soils and water table level to be a good prospect for wastewater irrigation, Water and Wastewater Director Jane Kreiter said.
Testing will determine whether the site possesses the proper conditions.
If the site tests out, negotiations for purchase or a long-term lease will begin, said Berlin town attorney Dave Gaskill.
It was not easy to find the right land. There are few examples of the right soils on the Eastern Shore, Kreiter said.
“We were very fortunate to find a piece of property that had both those properties at the same time and an owner who was willing to negotiate with us,” Williams said.
The town will pay $75,000 to the landowner now, with the right of first refusal contract. That payment would be applied to the purchase price if the land meets spray criteria and the town decides to buy the site.
Testing itself will cost about $230,000.
This investment is significant, Williams said, and the town did not want to undertake it before finding land that could meet the town’s needs for years to come.
One often repeated suggestion, requiring developers to donate land from building sites for spray irrigation, or land offsite, would have been piecemeal and not really worked, Williams felt.
The County Commissioners mandated land disposal for all treated wastewater effluent in Berlin by 2012 upon approving an expansion of the Berlin wastewater treatment plant in 2007.