Rehoboth Beach Outfall Project Moving Forward - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rehoboth Beach Outfall Project Moving Forward

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del.- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn M. Garvin on Thursday gave approval to construction of an outfall that will discharge Rehoboth Beach's treated wastewater into the Atlantic Ocean, eliminating the largest remaining point source discharge into Delaware’s inland bays. 

According to DNREC, before issuing the permits, the department evaluated the wastewater project put forward by the city to ensure that the remedy chosen by the city – the ocean outfall – met all legal, scientific and technical standards for bringing the city into compliance with its wastewater discharge. The department is issuing permits for the outfall based on Garvin's determination that the city of Rehoboth Beach satisfied all regulatory requirements with its applications.

According to DNREC, during hearings about the project stakeholders had expressed concern about the ocean outfall’s potential impacts to Hen and Chicken Shoals, an important habitat for numerous marine species. DNREC said that information in the hearing record, however, demonstrates that the outfall's alignment completely avoids Hen and Chicken Shoals and that the effluent, treated to a very high level, will not appreciably impact the shoals.

The approval comes after longtime push back from environmental groups such as the Surfrider Foundation. Delaware Chair John Doerfler says he was very disappointed to learn of Garvin's approval.

"We are really concerned that tourism will be impacted if [...] one accident occurs--and there's a decent chance over time that its going to happen," he says. "We are disappointed that DNREC and Governor Carney put tourism jobs at risk by possibly saving a few dollars on some Rehoboth residents' sewage bills."

The Surfrider Foundation has long been advocating for disseminating the wastewater thorough a spray irrigation system, which they say will be cheaper and better for the environment. Doerfler says a new study shows there is adequate space for that spray irrigation project. In the past, Rehoboth mayor Sam Cooper has stated that a spray irrigation system would violate their order as the water would eventually flow into the bays.

Doerfler says the Surfrider legal team is currently pursuing how it may further fight the outfall, such as with an appeal.

"We believe there were some steps that weren't followed," he says. "We are looking at options right now on how to keep this out of our ocean."

Rehoboth Mayor Sam Cooper says science proves the impact the outfall will have on the ocean is minor.

"We are talking about a highly treated effluent here." he says. "We are not talking about your father's or your grandfather's wastewater treatment plant. We are talking a highly treated effluent is going in the ocean and it will have minimal to no impact."

Cooper also says the outfall will be cheaper in the long run for taxpayers.

"This truly is a great day for the city and for its rate payers in the future," he says. "Obviously their rates will go up [now] because it's a big project, but it was cheaper than the other options."

"It's going to be a great day for the environment because the city's discharge will finally be out of the inland bays," Cooper adds. "The nutrients that help putrify the bay will be gone and be in the ocean where they are inconsequential."

In addition tot the ocean outfall project, Doerfler also says the city needs to take action on it's storm water outfalls sooner rather than later.

"A study came out that the bacteria levels after a rain event are over 30 times higher than whats swimmable and deemed safe. The City of Rehoboth needs to step up and fix its storm water drains and infrastructure," he says. "At the very least they should be warning every person who is visiting Rehoboth not to swim in that ocean because the storm water dumps to the near water and they're going to get sick."

In the past,  Sam Cooper has advocated for a study to further research the storm water. Repairs to two storm water outfalls were recently completed. 

DNREC said work done for Rehoboth by the city’s consultants also demonstrated that water quality, natural resources and public health would be protected by the alignment of the outfall, and that constructing it would have minimal environmental impact. Permits approved by DNREC will restrict all work on the outfall to the colder months when wildlife and marine animals, including piping plovers, ospreys, and migrating fish, turtles and mammals, will not be impacted. Likewise, work will only be done during the offseason to avoid disruption of recreational uses of Rehoboth’s Deauville Beach, according to DNREC.

Garvin signed order giving approval to the project states that the ocean outfall was the remedy chosen by the City of Rehoboth Beach for complying with a court order to stop discharging effluent from the city’s wastewater treatment plant into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal by June 1, 2018. The outfall will enable Rehoboth to achieve compliance with federal Clean Water Act and state standards for its wastewater discharge.

DNREC said when operational, the outfall also will bring closure to a lengthy process during which the city has worked to achieve wastewater compliance – starting in 1998, when DNREC promulgated a Total Maximum Daily Load Regulation requiring elimination of all 13 point sources of nitrogen and phosphorus discharging to the inland bays.

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