Rehoboth in Standstill Over Wastewater Treatment - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rehoboth in Standstill Over Wastewater Treatment

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REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Rehoboth Beach is searching for the answer to its waste water treatment problem. Each year, they dump hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. However, as of December 31, that option will be off the table, forcing the city to find another location to put that material. 

The dilemma has even become a campaign issue, as challengers to the mayor have suggested the city's proposed outfall dumping process would be harmful to both the environment and to the tourism industry. 

The city has been investigating this process for close to five years, and have proposed dumping the wastewater nearly 6,000 feet off of the Rehoboth Coast into the ocean. Cooper said that they have done extensive research, which has shown this is a safe enough distance, so as to keep the water safe and clean. 

"Scientific data proves that within 200 feet of the discharge point..." he said. "It's diluted 10,000 to one."

Cooper said they have also looked at nearby cities, which have taken similar actions in order to deal with their wastewater treatment. 

"The city treats it's wastewater to a very high level," he said. "There's no pee left in it really. And the proof of this is that Sussex County through it's South Coastal Treatment plan discharges maybe three or four times the waste or effluent that we do right off of Bethany Beach and South Bethany Beach.... Ocean City Maryland has used an outfall for over 40 years." 

Mayoral Challenger Tom McGlone has spoken out against the outfall project, arguing there are better alternatives. He said dumping in the ocean could be damaging to the natural habitat, and it could hurt the tourism industry.

"I think that there's alternatives," he said. "And I think that Rehoboth depends so much on tourism. I think that there's an issue in terms of perception." 

McGlone has suggested that the city should take another route instead, in order to deal with the wastewater. He said that the city should re-use this water for irrigation purposes that could be used privately. However Cooper said this would mean a far larger bill for the city. 

The main roadblock to the city's dumping plan is the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has not taken any action, despite the city's request. The city is awaiting approval from the department, and Cooper said they have been waiting for more than a year, without a response. 

On the beach, sunbather Jayona Allen said that the idea of pumping waste into the ocean troubled her. 

"When I'm in there playing around, I think it's just going to be dirty and stinky," she said. "And I'm going to know that it's in there. So I'm going to be freaked out."

Others though like Chrissy Shaw, said that she was comfortable with the idea due to the ocean's vast size. 

"It's such a big area that are we really going to feel the effects of it coming up here on the beach," she asked. "Probably not. So I'm ok with it."

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