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Green Delaware Action Alert #91

Key sewer cleanup bill introduced:  Needs public support

Port Penn, DE. April 13, 2001. House Bill 195 was introduced in the Delaware House of Representatives on April 12, 2001, with 30 co-sponsors. The lead House sponsor is Rep. Dick Cathcart, and the lead Senate Sponsor is Sen. Patti Blevins. HB 195 sets a deadline of Jan 1, 2009 for the end of raw sewage discharge into Delaware's waters. This means that Delaware children who play in rivers and streams would not longer be exposed to the health hazards of raw sewage. The bill represents years of work by many people and organizations. HB 195 is similar to HB 671, introduced in the previous General Assembly. The complete text is at http://www.legis.state.de.us/Legislature.nsf/?Opendatabase.

The City of Wilmington has at least 38 "combined sewer overflows (CSOs)" (pictures of some can be seen at www.greendel.org) that dump untreated sewage into the Brandywine and Christina Rivers and their tributaries during wet weather. These outlet pipes are located in State and County parks, a few feet upstream from the dock of the Wilmington Rowing Club, and in other places where people are directly exposed to the health threats of raw sewage. For many years the City, and state and federal environmental regulators, have failed to stop this dumping, leading citizens and legislators to conclude that special state legislation is needed to get the job
done.

Wilmington, the only operator of CSOs in Delaware, has been skimming about six million dollars per year from its Water and Sewer Fund, while claiming to have insufficient funds to modernize its sewer system. Authors of the bill have been careful to consider the financial constraints of Wilmington, allowing 8 years for clean-up (more time than many would like). The bill states "It is the intent of the General Assembly that the City of Wilmington, the Department of Natural Resources, any other affected jurisdiction, and other interested parties, cooperate fully and openly with the Oversight Committee regarding the design, funding and implementation of
the measures needed to secure timely compliance with this Act."

The exact cost of the required cleanup is unclear. Wilmington has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants, but a sensible plan has yet to be scoped out. The City filed a "long term control plan" that would theoretically spend 113.7 million over a period of 19 years but leave about 28 of the sewer overflow pipes in place. Even former Mayor James Sills admitted this plan was "inadequate." Knowledgeable observers consider the City plan absurd; a token filing intended to make the cleanup seem impractical.

"It's past time to pay the piper", said Susan Regis Collins of Wilmington River-City Committee, Inc., "We commend Alan Muller and Green Delaware for pursuing the clean up of Wilmington's CSO's--and we continue to give our full support to this effort."

Sponsors of the bill include Reps. Spence, Boulden, Carey, Caulk, Fallon, Hudson, Maier, Quillen, Roy, Ulbrich, Valihura, Wagner, Brady, B. Ennis, Mulrooney, Price, Scott, Viola, West Plant, and Williams ; Sens.McBride, Amick, Bonini, Cloutier, Connor, Simpson, and Still (several other legislators were co-sponsors last year and are likely to sign on).

Among those who have been reluctant to support sewer cleanup legislation in the past have been the managers of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (perhaps defending their "turf"), and Delaware's Department of Health and Social Services (why???). Gov. Minner's position is unknown at this time.

While the bill is off to a strong start, there will be opposition, and strong community will be needed to get the bill passed into law WITHOUT ANY WEAKENING AMENDMENTS.

ACTIONS NEEDED: 

Please contact Delaware legislators in support of HB 195-without weakening amendments. (Emails of legislators can be found at www.greendel.org) If you live in Delaware, CALL your Senator and Representative.

Ask Delaware's Governor Ruth Ann Minner to support HB 195. (gminner@state.de.us, 302.577.3210, or 302.739.4101).

If you are associated with an environmental or civic or health organization, please ask it to support HB 195. If you are an officer of such an organization, please contact Green Delaware.

Let us know what you think. 

Email us at 

GreenDel@dca.net

or contact
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX

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All work is done by volunteers and members including this website. 

This page was last updated on  April 13, 2001.
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