Public Works Department

District One History and Development

As Ocean City started to grow from a small town into a summer resort, sanitary sewer mains were laid in every other street beginning with the boardwalk discharging into the Sinepuxent Bay. The firm of Pugh & Hubbard, Civil and Sanitary Engineers, from Philadelphia was employed to design a sanitary sewer system for Ocean City in 1914. This consisted of a collection system, a clarification tank and a disposal plant at South Third Street with an additional pumping station at North Third Street.

Completed plans and specifications were submitted to the State of Maryland for approval on February 3, 1915 and March 11, 1915. Permit #40 for the construction of the proposed Ocean city sewerage system was issued to Mayor H.B.S. Powell of Ocean City on February 15, 1915. It is interesting to note that the permit read in part:

"The construction of the sewerage system in Ocean City is a matter of pressing importance, particularly since the sanitary conditions of the town are at present a menace to many visitors, as well as to the citizens. The lack of an adequate sewerage system may give an opportunity for the spread of disease to many localities. I hope that you can arrange to finance the construction of the system as outlined at an early date. If it is impossible to raise funds for building the whole of the system this year, a start at least should be made upon those sections of it which cover the most thickly populated district."

A contract was awarded to a contractor from Philadelphia on July 26, 1915. However due to unknown reasons, this work was never started. A second contract for a scaled down version of the sanitary sewer system was awarded to William J. Boyle,

City of Baltimore, on June 1, 1917 and signed by Ocean City Mayor J.B. Jones. Work was started, but, again, for unknown reasons never completed.

Twenty years later, this "matter of pressing importance" was finally realized. On November 1, 1935, the citizens of Ocean City voted to build a sewerage disposal plant and collection system for the amount of $61,000.00. This was the estimated amount required to go with a 45% grant of $56,659.00 from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works. An advertisement for construction of an intercepting sewer and disposal plant was printed in the Eastern Shore Times on December 12 and December 19, 1935. Sewer Permit No. 1471, dated December 20, 1935, was issued by the State Board of Health covering the construction of an interceptor.

Clarke Gardner was hired as the consulting engineer from Salisbury, Maryland. Bids for Contract #1 were opened at 8:00 P.M. on Friday, December 27, 1935 for 325 feet of 20 inch main, 2525 feet of 16 inch main, 2100 feet of 14 inch main, 2800 feet of 12 inch main and 27 manholes. Stanley Mundy Company, Inc. from Woodbridge, New Jersey was low bidder in the amount of $35,431.50. Preston Bowles, a civil engineer from Glen Burnie, Maryland, was employed as the Resident Engineer on February 18, 1936.

The Maryland State Department of Health, in a letter dated February 20, 1936, had mixed feelings as to the discharge of sewerage from the Ocean City Disposal Plant. The letter reads in part:

"The discharge of sewage into the inlet of the south end of Philadelphia Avenue is regarded by the Department as a temporary outlet only. With this arrangement, chlorination of the sewage the year around will be absolutely necessary. It is noted that you have shown the outlet extending approximately 100 feet from the bulkhead into the inlet. The amount of treatment of sewage which is provided for on the plans is not acceptable to the Department as adequate for local conditions. Subsequently, provisions for proper treatment of the sewage must be made as soon as funds are available for this additional construction."

The Mayor and City Council agreed with the State that as soon as funds were available the outlet would be located offshore.

Bids for construction of the sewerage disposal plant, Contract #2, were opened on June 26, 1936 with M.J. McDermott of Georgetown, Delaware as the low bidder. Sewer Permit No. 1582, dated July 16, 1936 was issued by the State Department of Health for the construction of the sewage disposal plant, force mains and appurtenances. Under Contract No. 2, PWA Docket Md. 1065-R was issued.

The Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works approved a grant in the amount of $56,659.00 for the construction of the sewerage disposal plant on August 7, 1936. The total contract for the sewerage disposal plant was $74,510.48. (It is interesting to note that the property where the disposal plant is located, one-half block between 1st and 2nd Streets on St. Louis Avenue, cost $1,200.00) Construction was started on Wednesday, August 26, 1936. Work was completed on both Contract #1, Sewerage Interceptors, and Contract #2, Sewerage Disposal Plant, on April 30, 1937. After change orders, the cost for both projects was $121,772.35.

In May of 1937, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works suggested that the remaining balance of the grant of approximately $4,000.00 be used to reverse the grade on the sanitary sewers flowing into the bay from the western side of the interceptor. In this way, the Mayor and Council would be taking advantage of a 45% grant and relieve the Sinepuxent Bay of some of the sewage flowing into it.

Contract #3 was awarded to George and Lynch of Dover, Delaware in January 1938 to relay the existing sewer laterals from Philadelphia Avenue west to the bay and tie them into the new interceptor main located in Philadelphia Avenue. Exact amount of this contract is not known.

In approximately 1960, the Maryland State Department of Health decided that the Ocean City area was in need of an expanded public water supply system, and an improved and expanded public sewerage system. At that time two jurisdictions were involved:

1. The incorporated municipality extending from the Ocean City Inlet to the center line of Forty-first Street;

2. The unincorporated area lying northward, thereof, to the Maryland-Delaware line - known as North Ocean City.

A series of meetings were held between the Mayor and Council of Ocean City, and the County Commissioners of Worcester County as representatives of the unincorporated area of North Ocean City.

Initial, tentative planning for both water and sewer envisioned joint facilities with a single entity responsible for operation. Since the emphasis, from the Health Department point of view, was on sewerage, planning was confined to that.

In early 1962, the County Commissioners of Worcester County created the Worcester County Sanitary Commission and the Worcester County Sanitary District. From its formation, the Worcester County Sanitary Commission commenced negotiations with the Mayor and Council of Ocean City on behalf of the unincorporated area of North Ocean City.

The major coastal storm on March 5 through March 7, 1962 ruined many private wells in North Ocean City. A sizable number were found to be contaminated with saltwater following the storm. Due to this situation, it was decided that a public water system for North Ocean City should receive top priority.

At a joint conference with the Mayor and Council of Ocean City in (about) May 1962, it was suggested that Ocean City extend its water system - already at 41st Street- northward to serve North Ocean City. It was felt that the Ocean City system could be extended to some degree at once, and thus, cure part of the northern water supply problem for the summer of 1962. At that conference, the Mayor and Council of Ocean City decided that they could not undertake the North Ocean City water problem. Accordingly the Worcester County Sanitary Commission, with the concurrence of the County Commissioners, on May 22, 1962, decided to create North Ocean City Sanitary District No. 1, with its southern boundary the center line of 41st Street, and its northern boundary the center line of 94th Street. Initially, District No. 1 was have a water system. The water system was designed and constructed. The first treated water was pumped into the distribution system on June 24, 1963.

Negotiations continued between the Sanitary Commission and the Mayor and Council of Ocean City for a joint sewerage system to service the entire community. An outline of the principles of an agreement for a joint sewerage system was prepared by the Sanitary Commission on November 27, 1963. The agreement outline covered ownership and operation, financial arrangements for operations and maintenance, and debt servicing. The Mayor and Council unanimously accepted the agreement by a letter dated December 12, 1963.

Based upon the foregoing agreement on principles, a "Joint Sewage System Agreement" was drafted by the Worcester County Sanitary Commission and transmitted to the Mayor and Council of Ocean City by a letter dated January 27, 1964. However, instead of considering the draft agreement, the Mayor and Council of Ocean City verbally rejected their earlier approval, and requested the annexation of North Ocean City to Ocean City. They stated that upon such annexation, Ocean City would construct a sewerage system for the enlarged city.

The Worcester County Sanitary Commission agreed to wait and see what would happen with respect to the annexation proposal. If the desired annexation was accomplished, the Sanitary Commission also agreed to turn over operational control of the water system in North Ocean City Sanitary District No. 1 to Ocean City.

After protracted negotiations and a referendum vote, the annexation of North Ocean to the municipality of Ocean City became effective on January 26, 1965. The Worcester County Sanitary Commission entered into a formal agreement, dated September 14, 1965, to transfer operational control (as distinct from ownership) of the water system to the City of Ocean City, effective July 1, 1966. By the terms of that agreement, the bond debt servicing of the water bond issue continued to be by the Sanitary Commission, using money turned over to the commission by Ocean City in advance of each interest and principal payment date.

Following the successful annexation, the Mayor and Council of Ocean City entered into a sewerage system design contract with the firm of George, Miles and Buhr for a new treatment plant at 64th Street with interceptor, mains, and other appropriate facilities to serve Ocean City from the Carousel Motel at English Avenue south to the Inlet. This included interconnection of the downtown Ocean City sewerage system at 15th Street with the new main, and redirection of the pumping of the existing 15th Street lift station and the 2nd Street pumping station (formerly known as a disposal plant) from south to north.

This newly designed system was put out for bids, which were opened on April 19, 1966. The city, however, was unable to sell bonds in sufficient amount to accept the low bids and construct the proposed system. It should be noted at this point that "the bond market, at this time, was the worst in thirty years " (quoting Robert Garrett & Sons, June 16, 1966).

Meanwhile Ocean City was under a Maryland State Health Department ban against making any new connections to the existing sewer system. The old system extended to 27th Street on Philadelphia Avenue and to 33rd Street on Baltimore Avenue.

The Mayor and Council of Ocean City subsequently met in a joint meeting with the Maryland State Senator and Delegates, the County Commissioners of Worcester County, and the Worcester County Sanitary Commission in (about) June, 1966 to discuss ways and means of assisting Ocean City with financing the necessary sewerage system. A specific question was whether, if they were so willing, the County Commissioners of Worcester County could legally co-sign Ocean City Bonds, and thus, put the full faith and credit of the entire County behind such bonds. Senator Sanford agreed to make the inquiry at State level regarding the legality of the County Commissioners co-signing the bonds. After an extended time, the answer came back. The County could not legally co-sign municipal bonds.

Another joint meeting, with the same participants as above, was held on September 15, 1966. At this meeting, the Mayor and Council of Ocean City requested that the Worcester County Sanitary Commission include all of Ocean City in a sanitary district, and install the needed sewage facilities. It was agreed by the conference attendants that this would be done. The city made a formal request by letter, of the same date, to the Worcester County Sanitary Commission signed by Mayor Hugh T. Cropper, Jr..

Even though the sewage system to be constructed and operated by the Worcester County Sanitary Commission was identical to the one already designed and bid for Ocean City, plans and specifications had to again be approved at all levels. New bids had to be taken - even though the previous low bidders were willing to hold their bids open for acceptance by the Sanitary Commission.

The Worcester County Sanitary Commission proceeded with the necessary details of enlarging North Ocean City Sanitary District No. 1 to include all of Ocean City (this was approved by Mayor and Council Resolution at 11 A.M. on November 17, 1966), advertising a $3,000,000 bond issue (concurrently with a County School Bond Issue), and the submission of plans and specifications for approval, etc.. New bids on the necessary work were opened on June 15, 1967.

Low bidders for June 15th opening were:

a. Intercepting and Lateral Sewers - Contract 525-A

Edgell Construction Co. $2,128,000.00

b. Sludge Disposal Equipment - Contract 525-C

Dorr Oliver, Inc. $ 183,400.00

c. Pumping and Sewage Treatment Facilities - Contract 525-D

Chas. E. Brohawn & Bros. $1,240,000.00

The Ocean Outfall Bids (Contract 525-E) were later opened on February 13, 1968, and the low bidder was Tidewater Construction Company, in the amount of $622,100.00.

Awards were made to all the above low bidders. The Intercepting and Lateral Sewers Contract, Contract 525-A, it should be noted, provided for no sewer lines north of English Avenue, thus, leaving the northern two miles of Ocean City still without the prospect of public sewer.

Work commenced at the 64th Street Treatment Plant site July 20, 1967. While not yet fully finished, the Treatment Plant was put into operation on March 20, 1969, at which time the 15th Street Lift Station began pumping to the north through the new eight inch force main. Work commenced on the new interceptor and lateral sewers by Edgell Construction Company on September 18, 1967. All work south of 81st Street was completed by Memorial Day, 1968. Further work was discontinued until September 16, 1968.

At the time the sewer system financing was arranged, the State and Federal governments share of the cost of interceptor sewers, treatment plants, ocean outfalls, etc. was fifty percent. By the time the Ocean City system started construction, that reimbursed share of costs was increased to seventy-five percent

The Worcester County Sanitary Commission felt that it had enough financing to complete most of the sewering of Ocean City by constructing the northerly two miles of intercepting and lateral sewers, and another sewage lift station at Jamestown Road. Therefore the Sanitary Commission requested George, Miles and Buhr to prepare plans and specifications for the work.

Edgell Construction Company was the lowest bidder on the pipe work with a bid price of $847,512.40, and were awarded Contract No. 525-F. They commenced work on this new contract January 2, 1969, and completed work on May 28, 1969.

W.B. Mitten & Sons, Inc. had the lowest bid on the Jamestown Road Lift Station with a bid price of $152,360.00 (as modified), and was awarded Contract No 525-G. This contract was not completed until June 1970. However, its function was performed by a portable pump in May 1969, so that failure of the scheduled completion of the lift station for the summer of 1969 had no adverse effect on the functioning of the whole system.

The ocean outfall construction was plagued by rough weather, and fell behind schedule. It became obvious in the early winter of 1968 that work would have to be stopped until spring. Thus, the outfall could not possibly be completed by April 1, 1969, the target date for operation of the new waste treatment plant. A thirty inch by thirty inch by thirty inch tee was installed in the line at a point 1630 feet offshore. The tee was turned upright and reduced to eighteen inches, with a reducing sleeve serving as the effluent discharge point for the 1969 season. A steel plate bulkhead was installed on the seaward end of the tee to prevent the effluent pumping from interfering with further outfall line work. This temporary discharge port was installed with a cap, which Tidewater Construction removed about March 18, 1969. Fresh water was test-pumped through the outfall line to verify its operation. Construction on the outfall resumed in late April 1969, but the effluent was discharged through the temporary port until the winter of 1969.

When outfall construction was completed, all discharge ports (51) in the diffuser section, except the one on the east end of the outfall line, were left capped off. The steel bulkhead was cut out of the outfall at the temporary discharge port "tee". (This was quite a task. The first diver was literally blown out of the line by a gas explosion and the second gave up. The third diver with greater experience was brought in from New Orleans. He shrugged off several small explosions, and finished the job successfully.) The temporary port opening was then blanked off with a cover plate.

The outfall was tested by adding ten parts per million of rhodamine dye to the effluent water, and pumping through the line with two effluent pumps operating simultaneously to develop maximum pressure in the line. At times, the pressure measured 3 - 5 psi. Dyed water emerged only through the single open port at the east end of the outfall line. The covers were removed from all the discharge ports in the thousand foot diffuser section and normal operations began. This was on February 6, 1970.

(It is interesting to observe that from the determination that a new and expanded sewerage system was needed for the Ocean City area, until it was actually functioning, was approximately eleven years.)

The capacity of the wastewater collection system was 5.5 MGD from 64th Street south, and 3.5 MGD from 64th Street north. The treatment plant at 64th Street was designed for 9.0 MGD, however, only one-half of this capacity was actually constructed.

In June 1972, bids were received, and construction was started on the upgrade of the 64th Street Wastewater Treatment Plant from 4.5 MGD to 9.0 MGD Primary Treatment Plant. This expansion went on-line in the Spring of 1974. At the same time, the old 15th Street Pumping Station was demolished, and the new pumping station was brought on-line.

Primary treatment is the removal of a substantial amount of suspended matter by sedimentation. Primary treatment at this facility consists of automatically and manually cleaned bar screens, grit chambers, comminutors, influent wet-well, two primary clarifiers, two settling/sludge storage tanks (referred to as clarigesters), and the pumping of the flow to the distribution chambers. Primary sludge from the clarifiers and settling/storage tanks is pumped to degritting units followed by sludge incineration. Prior to incineration, the sludge is further dewatered by a centrifuge to maximize burning efficiency. The incineration system is a Dorr-Oliver fluidized sand bed (FluoSolids) reactor.

In April 1981, the expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant to a 12.0 MGD Secondary Plant was completed. Secondary Treatment is the treatment of wastewater by biological methods, after the Primary Treatment.

Sewerage from the primary treatment plant enters the secondary influent pumping station and is pumped to the activated sludge system, consisting of a three train aeration/oxygenation basin. The influent flow is mixed with return-activated sludge, and aerated using pure oxygen generated on-site. Forward gravity flow from the aeration/oxygenation basin enters the secondary clarifiers, then flows to the ozonation chamber. Flow then enters the chlorine contact chambers and effluent pumping station for ultimate disposal via the ocean outfall discharging into the Atlantic Ocean. Waste-activated sludge from the secondary clarifiers is pumped to dissolved air flotation thickeners for dewatering, then to aerobic sludge digestion tanks for stabilization, with ultimate disposal by land application. Separate liquid holding/storage facilities and disposal equipment are located at an off-site disposal area.

During May 1990, the Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion to a 16.0 MGD Primary plant was completed, and went into operation. This involved constructing two equalization tanks of 1 MGD capacity. This allowed for wastewater to be held during the day, when experiencing peak flows, and treating it at night during low flows.

In May 1992, the Headworks and the Laboratory Building were completed and put on-line. The Headworks increased the capacity of the secondary treatment from 12.0 MGD to 14.0 MGD.

In the mid 1980's, a computerized Preventive Maintenance (P.M.) system was developed and designed in-house. This system has been copied by other plants, as it was far in advance of those programs available on the market. With the P.M. program, an Inventory Control System was also developed. It, too, is considered by many to be one of the best on the market.

The Wastewater Departments Collection and Maintenance Section has constructed mains and services for the area between 141st Street and the Delaware line. It has also up-graded many of the downtown street laterals. Ninety-nine percent of the maintenance and repair of equipment used in this wastewater treatment process is performed by the in-house maintenance personnel. An instrumentation technician is trained in all aspects of monitoring equipment. In the Spring of 1993, the Wastewater Department maintenance personnel replaced the Reactor Scrubber in the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The secondary treatment of sludge used at the Town of Ocean City Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of the most sophisticated types of treatment in the State of Maryland. The operators who run the system are professionals licensed by the State of Maryland in the treatment of wastewater. The operators and the maintenance and construction personnel are trained to provide a level of treatment second to none, at the lowest possible cost.

On July 1, 1994, after much negotiation, the ownership and operation of the Wastewater Department was transferred from Worcester County to the Town of Ocean City. All of the personnel who were currently employed with District Number One were transferred with no loss of pay, seniority or benefits. Fifty-one employees were transferred with the department. The transition was smooth and no change in operations was made.

In 1995 the Town undertook a large capital projects program, which continues to present day. The ultimate goal is to rebuild, upgrade and improve the wastewater treatment plant and collection system. Highlights include: ocean outfall restoration, sludge handling improvements, oxygen generation and stand-by power upgrades and recent treatment plant odor control improvements. Also, as part of the capital programs, existing Biosolids treatment systems were replaced and improved in 2004.

One  process, envessel pasteurization, is now utilized. It produces an improved end product for distribution called class “A” Biosolids. This Biosolids treatment process is one of the most sophisticated types of treatment in the state of Maryland. The operators who run the facility are professionals, licensed by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The Ocean City Wastewater Department consists of 4 sections: Administrative, Treatment Plant Operations and Maintenance, Collections System Operations and Maintenance and Laboratory Services.