Contact the General Assembly to demand the passage of HB 671

Support Bill to Stop Raw Sewage Dumping in Delaware

by Alan Muller

Wilmington dumps hundreds of millions of gallons of RAW SEWAGE into rivers and streams every year. A “combined” sewer system put “stormwater” from roof and street drains into the same pipes as “sanitary” sewage from toilets and industry. In dry weather most of the sewage goes to a treatment plant, but even a small rain overwhelms the system and “combined sewage” goes into rivers and creeks through “Combined Sewer Overflows”(CSOs). Wilmington has about 38 CSOs dumping into Wilmington State Parks and other places where children, especially, can contact the sewage. Diseases and parasites that can be transmitted include Roundworms, Tapeworms, Polio, Typhoid fever, Meningitis, Hepatitis, Dysentery, Cholera, Diarrhoea, and Mononucleosis. The sewage also contains poisons such as mercury, lead, and PCBs, which cause cancer and birth defects.

Seaford also has CSOs, but they should be gone within a year. Wilmington, is dragging it’s feet, and plans to keep dumping untreated sewage. A solution is in sight: A bill, sponsored by Senator Dallas Winslow and Rep. Dick Cathcart, and 27 other legislators, would outlaw CSOs in Delaware after Jan 1, 2008. Strangely, the key opponent of the bill seems to be Sen. Patricia M. Blevins, who chaired a “CSO Task Force.” This group, dominated by City and State officials, DID NOT recommend that the CSOs be eliminated. Blevins has reportedly asked her Democratic colleagues in the Senate NOT to support the bill. Blevins told Green Delaware a bill would be “confrontational” and that she “has confidence in DNREC.” She knows better, and wrote to state officials in 1999: “Mr, Hansen [of DNREC] said that lack of funding would be a valid reason for non-compliance ... the City will forever claim a lack of funding. They have already stated clearly that correcting CSO’s is not a priority for them. ...” Exactly. The City has belatedly filed a required “Long Term Control Plan,” which does NOT call for eliminating the CSOs. Wilmington’s real intentions are shown in the six-year “capital program” adopted on May 25th: The City plans to spend only 1.7 percent of it’s 148 million 6-year capital program on cleaning up the overflows. Even this, according to City officials, is only a “wish list.”

The bill also says that CSO cleanup can’t be used as an excuse for increased pollution from treatment plants. We need this because State and Wilmington officials want to use the CSO problem as an excuse to let the Wilmington treatment plant increase it’s own discharges into the Delaware River by 24 thousand pounds per day of water pollutants.) The bill also needs to have a penalty clause and a requirement that DNREC cannot waive the cleanup deadline. (Wilmington’s sewer plant is a “significant and chronic violator” of it’s permit but state officials have taken no enforcement actions.)

This disgusting, unhealthy, situation effects not only Wilmington residents but everyone downstream in the Delaware estuary, and won’t end unless the City is given a hard deadline with strong penalties for violation. (Green Delaware agrees that the State and Federal Government should contribute to the cleanup, and we stand ready to work for appropriate funding).

Green Delaware is no enemy of the City of Wilmington, and we are working with City organizations including the Wilmington River-City Committee and Waterfront Watch, plus the New Jersey Environmental Federation. The time has come to take this important step towards clean water in Delaware. Please ask your representatives in the General Assembly, and Governor Carper, to help.

Look for more details in upcoming Green Delaware News. (C) Alan Muller


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Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
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This page was last updated on June27, 2000.