BERLIN — The ongoing expansion and rehabilitation of Berlin’s aging sewer treatment facilities got a much needed fiscal shot in the arm this week with the announcement of over $3 million in federal loans and grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program.
U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin on Wednesday announced a roughly $2.5 million loan and a $1 million-plus grant from the federal Rural Development Program that will help the town of Berlin continue to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant so that it no longer discharges treated sewage into streams and ditches that find their way into the coastal bays. Berlin’s wastewater treatment plant upgrade is one of 53 similar projects across the nation to receive grants and loans from the USDA this week in conjunction with its week-long Earth Day celebration.
The Rural Development funding will be used to make crucial upgrades to Berlin’s existing wastewater treatment facility, an ongoing project that will result in the construction of a new spray irrigation system. Implementing the new spray irrigation system will allow Berlin’s wastewater treatment plant to completely halt discharging into the Hudson Branch, currently the most polluted stream section in the coastal bays watershed, according to Cardin.
“Berlin’s current water infrastructure system is inadequate and is part of a nationwide problem in which many communities have outdated water and sewer systems that require greater investment,” said Cardin. “This funding will benefit the residents of Worcester County and Maryland’s fragile coastal areas.”
Mikulski said she fought for the funding for Berlin and Worcester for its obvious environmental benefits as well as the economic considerations.
“I am proud to work in the U.S. Senate to build communities and create jobs, and this federal investment to improve Berlin’s sewer system will do just that,” she said. “Maryland cities and towns need to upgrade their water and sewer infrastructure, but they can’t do it on their own and ratepayers shouldn’t have to bear the full burden. This grant is a double value for the taxpayer dollar, creating jobs while improving health and safety and helping this community grow.”
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) requires Berlin to finish upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant by December 2012, in accordance with the state’s priority for the protection of waters. In addition to conserving the Hudson Branch, Berlin officials also expect the project to enable the town’s wastewater treatment plant to support further growth in Berlin.