Wastewater decision shouldn’t hinge on price
Since 2002 when the City of Rehoboth Beach entered into a consent letter with DNREC calling for a new system for Rehoboth’s treated wastewater disposal, those involved in city government have pursued the thankless task of choosing among options, none of which are attractive. Rehoboth faces a true dilemma in that we have been forced to choose among unappealing options. Ending discharge into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal is long overdue, but that step toward protecting the Inland Bays and waterways ecosystem leads to the present dilemma of what to do with the treated wastewater currently discharged into the canal.
I have not investigated the options to the extent necessary to develop an informed opinion on the merits of the bad choices available. From reports over the past few years, I understood that it was the considered opinion of the various experts (including the authors of the 2012 environmental impact study) that ocean outfall was the most environmentally sensitive solution. However, as the ocean outfall moves closer to reality, I’ve noticed that some public officials (most notably departing DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara) are hedging and suggesting that other options may be better but that cost was in important factor in choosing ocean outfall over other options.
As a stakeholder who pays Rehoboth sewer fees, I want to make it clear that I’m prepared to pay what it takes to protect the single most important resource Rehoboth has - the renowned quality of our beaches and wetlands. I’m seldom inclined to ignore cost, but the quality of our beaches, bays and wetlands is, in my view, well worth an additional $50-$100 a month (using the worst case scenario). Having said that, I would encourage our leaders to explore ways to distribute the burden of preserving our spectacular environment to all those who benefit from it by seeking contributions from day trippers (parking fees), renters and merchants.
Finding a solution to Rehoboth’s treated wastewater disposal dilemma should not be a political issue. This is one issue where cost should not be a major factor. If ocean outfall is the best solution let’s pursue it, but let’s not use cost to justify a bargain approach that is risky. Those old enough to recall the Syringe Tide environmental disaster of the late 1980s when hypodermic syringes and raw garbage washed up onto beaches on the Jersey Shore know that nothing is more devastating to a beach community than nity than the perception that the beach is not clean.
The state and local leaders responsible for resolving the treated wastewater disposal dilemma surely must recognize that nothing will be more important to their legacy than getting this right. If the solution selected fails, no one is going to recall or care about the money saved in pursuing a poor solution.