Rehoboth outfall plan not a done deal
As the CEO of Artesian Resources Corporation, I am compelled to correct some misunderstandings, and even misrepresentations, regarding the spray irrigation alternative that Artesian proposes for Rehoboth’s treated wastewater disposal needs. Correcting the record is important because, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan taught us, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
Untreated wastewater is 99.9 percent water. Rehoboth currently treats and discharges to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal about 453 million gallons of water per year, or approximately 11-and-a-half times the volume of water in Silver Lake when dredged to a depth of three feet. Although the wastewater is treated, the remaining nutrients cause harm to the Inland Bays, resulting in the need to end Rehoboth’s discharge to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
The question before the citizens of Rehoboth and Delaware’s environmental regulators is whether this amount of precious water, having been used once for human consumption and then treated to meet all modern standards, should then be either recycled by irrigating croplands, which would benefit from the remaining nutrients, and recharging the water table aquifer (spray irrigation), or dumped into the Atlantic Ocean (ocean outfall) and lost forever.
As a steward of Delaware’s groundwater resources for over 100 years, Artesian favors the “total resource management” alternative of spray irrigation rather than ocean outfall.
Now to the task of correcting the record:
The 2012 Environmental Impact Statement submitted to DNREC by Rehoboth’s paid consultant stated that sufficient land would not be available for spray irrigation or that Rehoboth would have to purchase the land at an unreasonably high cost. Fact: Artesian already assembled and permitted the necessary spray fields to meet Rehoboth’s disposal needs on lands outside the Inland Bays and permanently dedicated to farmland preservation.
The 2012 EIS stated “The law does not allow the application of treated effluent on lands preserved by the Agricultural Land Preservation Act, but the last several years there have been initiatives in the Legislature to resolve these restrictions.” Fact: The law was amended in 2009 to allow spray irrigation on all farmland, including land protected by the Agricultural Lands Preservation Act. Since 2010, Middletown and Artesian have provided reclaimed wastewater to such farmland through a collaborative and award-winning partnership. Joined at a ceremony by Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee and DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara, Gov. Jack Markell stated: “This is an outstanding green success story that shows what real cooperation between the public and private sectors, among state and local government and across agencies can achieve. This is a win-win program.”
A letter writer opined that Rehoboth’s EIS is “final” and that consideration of the spray irrigation alternative “would have this entire process scrapped.” Fact: The EIS has been completed by Rehoboth’s consultant, but has not been approved by DNREC. As discussed above, the EIS is fatally flawed as it ignores the 2009 law approving spray irrigation of reclaimed water on Agricultural Preservation land.
A letter writer theorized that soil conditions, high water table and weather conditions in Sussex County make spray irrigation too challenging to operate effectively. Fact: The spray fields under contract to Artesian have been thoroughly evaluated by soil scientists and a permit has been issued by DNREC for construction of the facility.
A letter writer asserts that communities relying on spray irrigation “have seen their costs skyrocket.” Fact: Spray irrigation is used throughout Delaware and is cost effective. User rates for citizens of Rehoboth would be competitive with ocean outfall and controlled by contract.
State Farm Bureau President Gary Warren said “Agriculture is the state’s largest industry. Tourism is Rehoboth’s largest industry. Both depend heavily on an endless supply of clean water.” As Rehoboth decides whether precious reclaimed water should be wasted to ocean outfall or irrigated on crop lands, facts, not personal opinions, should guide that decision.
Dian C. Taylor
president & CEO
Artesian Resources Corporation