Action time for Rehoboth wastewater plan
After years of discussion, design, hearings, consideration and votes, the final plan for an ocean outfall discharge pipe for Rehoboth Beach’s treated wastewater now reportedly sits on the desk of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. That controversial plan needs the secretary’s approval before the process can move toward the necessary permits and financial assistance from the state for construction of the $30 million project.
To say that the time has come for the secretary to make his decision is an understatement. Many years ago, federal guidelines mandated that all pollution point sources such as treated wastewater effluent pipes had to be removed from Delaware’s Inland Bays. For Rehoboth Beach, the mandates set 2014 as the deadline to stop discharging treated wastewater into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
Clearly, even if O’Mara gives the green light this week, construction on the outfall pipe and other related improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment system won’t be complete in time to meet the 2014 deadline. So add the applications for extension of the discharge removal deadline to everything else necessary to get this project started.
Given Rehoboth Beach’s status as one of the nation’s nicest and cleanest ocean beaches, O’Mara’s hesitancy in signing off on a plan to dump even highly treated wastewater into the ocean about a mile offshore is understandable. Many, O’Mara included, preferred a spray irrigation alternative that would have avoided the negative public perception of an ocean outfall and preserved the freshwater resource represented by the treated wastewater. Rehoboth Beach, however, found the added expense of that approach unaffordable. It opted to go with the ocean outfall option, which despite perception, nonetheless meets environmental requirements. Unless O’Mara wants to recognize Rehoboth’s status as Delaware’s No. 1 resort - and as such an important statewide asset - and find the extra money necessary to offset the added expense represented by a spray irrigation system, he must greenlight the ocean outfall plan soon to meet the spirit of the 2014 agreement and realize the projected benefits to the Inland Bays.