The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts five major hurricanes and 20 tropical storms for 2021. Aging structural design, tidal wetland location and vulnerability to sea level rise have left the Lewes wastewater treatment facility dangerously exposed to increasing coastal hazards associated with global warming and climate change. The catastrophic nine-day, 4-million-gallon WWTF sewage spill in December 2019 was a severe warning that the plant needs to relocate and/or redirect the effluent.
From the Lewes Comprehensive Plan 2015, according to the 1999 Greenhorne and O’Mara Flood Mitigation Plan and 2011 Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan: “Potential damage to this facility (Lewes WWTF) poses a serious risk to the community. Access to the structure would likely be cut-off during a 100-year event. Damage to the facility could cause a break in service, which would affect all residents and shelters as well as emergency operations (service) at the Beebe Medical Center. Furthermore, flood damage could result in a failure at the plant and might lead to an overflow of the plant’s contents, resulting in a serious health risk to the community.”
Raw sewage threatens public health, coastal ecosystems, and tourism-based coastal economies. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has given Delaware the authority through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to issue a renewable permit to the Lewes WWTF to pump effluent into a navigable waterway (the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal) which is a direct violation of the Federal Clean Water Act.
This cannot continue! Rather than pump reusable water into the canal, the Lewes Board of Public Works should begin planning to recycle water by relocating the WWTF and/or redirecting the effluent now. Delaware Agriculture Land, parcel #334-06-39.00 at the corner of Clay Road, Marsh Road and Wescoats Corner including 42.27 acres would be an ideal location to divert the Lewes WWTF effluent inland to inject potable water using a rapid infiltration basin system which will recharge our aquifers.
The EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides financial assistance to states and local communities for wastewater infrastructure improvement projects. Rep. Peter Defazio’s (D-OR) House of Representatives Bill HR 1915 is the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021 which provides an important bipartisan opportunity to catch up with sewage infrastructure needs of our growing coastal community to better protect clean water for all people. HR 1915 Bill proposes $40 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
Contact your Delaware representative and senators to support HR 1915.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester – bluntrochester.house.gov/contact
Sen. Carper – carper.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-senator-carper
Sen. Coons – coons.senate.gov/contact.