Rehoboth still has time to change course
As the CEO of Artesian Resources Corporation, I want to reiterate that Artesian stands ready to work with the present and future leaders of Rehoboth and our state to provide a long-term wastewater solution that is environmentally best and cost-effective. Although the court-ordered consent decree requires Rehoboth to stop its wastewater disposal to the canal by the end of this year, the plain truth is that no solution, neither ocean outfall nor spray irrigation, can be accomplished by then.
Rehoboth is not to be faulted for failure to meet the deadline because it has been unable to obtain necessary state permits and funding. So, the deadline will have to be extended, and during this delay we encourage the city to fully and fairly consider the spray irrigation alternative.
To date, the land application alternatives to ocean outfall have not been properly examined by Rehoboth and its consultant. The majority of lands identified by them as potential sites and landowners contacted as part of their search were located within the Inland Bays watershed. It is difficult to understand why this was the case given that the health of the Inland Bays is the reason for terminating discharge to the canal.
This error was compounded when the consultants failed to renew their search to include farms protected by the Agricultural Lands Preservation Program after the law was changed in 2009 to allow spray irrigation on such lands. These mistakes doomed Rehoboth’s search for an alternative to ocean outfall.
Cost is always a valid concern. At this point Rehoboth only has estimated costs rendered by its consultant for ocean outfall and spray irrigation, respectively. We believe those estimates may have been influenced by a bias in favor of ocean outfall. Spray irrigation is a cost-competitive alternative to ocean outfall deserving full and fair consideration.
Finally, I must differ with the University of Delaware professor who opined on this page that reclaimed wastewater “has no real financial value” because groundwater is plentiful in Sussex County. That opinion is akin to saying that we should not recycle glass and plastic because they are cheap to make and there is plenty of room for another landfill. According to testimony during the hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement from Gary Warren, president of the State Farm Bureau, by the year 2050, farmers will need to grow an additional billion tons of grain per year to feed the world.
We will also have to produce an additional 200 million tons of meats - beef, pork and poultry per year. Mr. Warren stated: “It’s going to cause a minimum of 40 percent increase in water demand. One in seven humans will not have enough to eat.” Although Sussex County has adequate groundwater today, it is a precious resource that should not be used wastefully.
The citizens of Rehoboth and their leaders are contemplating a wastewater facility that will serve future generations well past the year 2050. Will it be ocean dumping or cropland irrigation? Ocean outfall is truly “disposal” of treated wastewater, as it will do nothing to help our farmers produce the grains and meats that the world will need during the useful life of that facility.
Foresight is doing the smart thing before emergency forces us to act. Let us consider spray irrigation with foresight, so that a future generation does not have to act in hindsight.
Dian C. Taylor
chair, president and CEO
Artesian Resources Corporation