Citizens Source Water Protection Committee to meet May 6 in Dover

DOVER – The Source Water Protection Citizens and Technical Advisory Committee (CTAC) of the Source Water Assessment and Protection Program will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 6 in Conference Room 220 A&B of the Kent County Administrative Offices, 555 South Bay Road, Dover, DE 19901. The focus of this meeting will be on the topic of nutrients in drinking water.

The agenda includes the following items:

  • An update on recent source water projects and initiatives in Delaware;
  • A presentation by John Barndt of DNREC’s Division of Water on Updates to the Delaware Regulations Governing the Construction and Use of Wells;
  • A presentation from John Cargill of DNREC’s Site Investigation and Restoration Section on the WATAR Watershed Assessment Tool; and
  • A presentation by Michael Brayton, U.S. Geological Survey, on the conceptual model of deeper groundwater flow within the Delaware City Industrial Area.

For more information about the Source Water Assessment and Protection Program, including a full agenda for this meeting, please visit http://delawaresourcewater.org, or contact Program Manager Anita Beckel at 302-739-9945.

Delaware’s Source Water Assessment Plan was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in October 1999. The program is charged with delineating source water areas around all sources of public drinking water in the state, identifying all existing and potential sources of contamination within those areas and making the information available to the public. The Source Water Protection Law of 2001 maintains the CTAC as an advisory committee to the Secretary of DNREC on the implementation of the Source Water Assessment Plan and closely related matters.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 94


Delaware water quality to improve as a result of new wastewater system regulations

DOVER (Jan. 7, 2014) – Delaware’s revised wastewater system regulations will become effective Jan. 11, 2014.  The regulations keep pace with changes in technology for large and small systems, protect public health and reduce pollution in groundwater, streams, rivers and bays, helping Delaware to meet its goal of achieving clean water. The changes correspond to regulations in effect for the past four years in Delaware’s Inland Bays Watershed. They also protect homebuyers from acquiring malfunctioning septic systems.

“Clean water is vital to the quality of life we enjoy in Delaware,” said Secretary Collin O’Mara. “The revised septic regulations are essential for protecting the health of our families, strengthening our economy and ensuring cleaner, healthier water quality for our precious bays, rivers and streams for years to come.”

Currently almost all of Delaware’s rivers and streams are impaired – considered unswimmable and unhealthy for aquatic life due to excess nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus and bacteria– that are entering our waterways. DNREC’s Division of Water estimates that approximately 18 percent of the state’s 70,000 septic systems may be malfunctioning. Failing septic systems are sources of groundwater contamination, making it important to replace older, malfunctioning systems to prevent potential health hazards and improve water quality.

The regulatory changes represent the culmination of more than five years of work by DNREC staff that included 13 workshops and three public hearings, answering questions and gathering input from homeowners, state legislators, realtors, businesses, the wastewater industry, and public utilities. After each workshop and hearing, the draft regulations were amended to reflect public comment.

The revised regulations include requirements for small residential septic systems of less than 2,500 gallons of wastewater treated per day, as well as large community and commercial systems of more than 2,500 gallons of wastewater treated per day. Several sections of the regulations include phase-in effective dates.

Among other changes, the regulations effective Jan. 11, 2014:

  • Require inspection of all septic systems prior to property transfers
    •  Most if not all mortgage lending institutions currently require the inspection of a septic system prior to sale. 
    • This requirement informs a buyer of a system’s type and condition and protects a homebuyer from acquiring a malfunctioning septic system.
  • Clarify the permitting process for siting, installing and maintaining all small systems
  • Create new inspection protocols for system contractors and inspector
  • Allow homeowners to maintain their own innovative/alternative system, once certified through a homeowner training program
  • Standardize the permitting process for spray irrigation and on-site systems
  • Include procedures for distributing treated wastewater for agricultural use and other authorized purposes

Regulations effective Jan. 2015:

  • Require the elimination of cesspools and seepage pits under certain situations
  • Require the upgrade of all new and replacement systems within 1,000 feet of tidal portions of the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek, which will assist Delaware in meeting federal targets to clean up the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
  • Establish statewide performance standards for all innovative/alternative systems
  • Require all manufacturers of concrete system components (septic tanks, dosing chambers, etc.) to be certified through the On-Site Wastewater Accreditation Program

Regulations effective Jan. 2016:

  • Require waste haulers to report septic tank pump-outs
  • Create a new licensee category for construction inspectors

Delaware’s Septic Rehabilitation Loan Program (SRLP) is available to help eligible property owners meet regulatory requirements. The program provides low interest loans to assist homeowners with the costs of replacing malfunctioning septic systems or cesspools.  The loans are secured by a mortgage lien on the rehabilitated property. A loan of $1,000 to $35,000 for individual systems and $250,000 (maximum for community or mobile home park systems) can be repaid over 20 years with no prepayment penalty. For homeowners who may not qualify for the SRLP, the Septic Extended Funding Option (SEFO) can provide loans covering 100 percent of replacement costs with no repayment due until the property transfers. Under SEFO, if the property is not sold within 20 years of the loan closing, the debt is forgiven.

The program is managed by DNREC’s Financial Assistance Branch with technical assistance from the Ground Water Discharges Branch, in partnership with First State Community Action Agency of Georgetown/Dover. For more information contact, DNREC’s Financial Assistance Branch at 302-739-9941 or visit Septic Rehabilitation Loan Program.

The new wastewater system regulations can be found on DNREC’s website, as can the Secretary’s Order. For more information contact Jack Hayes, Ground Water Discharges Section at 302-739-9327.

To learn more about the different types of septic systems, how they work and the importance of effectively treating wastewater, watch DNREC’s Septic 101 video online at Septic 101 video.

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DNREC Public Affairs: Melanie Rapp, 302-739-9902


Delaware issues updated fish consumption advisory

DOVER (Oct. 23, 2013) – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health today updated the fish consumption advisory for fish caught in the tidal Delaware River. The updated advisory is a result of analysis of chemical contaminants in fish caught in the tidal Delaware River and elsewhere throughout the state. The change reflects long-term environmental improvements in the tidal Delaware River.

The fish consumption advisory for the tidal Delaware River from the Delaware/Pennsylvania/New Jersey border to the C&D Canal has been updated to a less restrictive advisory due to falling levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans, chlorinated pesticides, and mercury. For the general adult population, the current advice has been changed from “eat no finfish caught in the tidal Delaware River north of the C&D Canal” to “eat no more than one eight ounce meal of finfish per year,” while retaining the “do not eat” advice for women of childbearing age and young children. This advisory is being issued today in collaboration with the New Jersey Toxics in Biota Committee and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

“This updated advisory in the tidal Delaware River is a very positive sign that water quality is improving and that our efforts, especially during the past few years, are working,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara. “Initiatives, such as those that clean up harmful wastes and reduce pollutants from entering our waterways, along with cooperative efforts of the Delaware River Basin Commission and our state, federal, and local partners to address PCBs, are making a difference. Our goals are to clean up the remaining sources of contaminants, accelerate improvement in fish and ultimately lift advisories when they are no longer necessary.”

Fishing is a popular activity in Delaware and many people eat their catch. Although eating fish in moderation as part of a healthy diet may provide health benefits, fish can accumulate contaminants from the water, sediment and from the food they eat. Contaminants may build up over time in fish tissues even with extremely small amounts of chemicals in the water. The amount of contaminants in fish depends on the species, size, age, sex and feeding area of the fish. Chemicals, such as PCBs, mercury and dioxin in fish are a health risk for people who regularly consume their catch.

In addition to the advisory mentioned above, DNREC and DHSS remind the public of the general statewide fish consumption advisory first issued in 2007: 

  • Eat no more than one meal per week of any fish caught in Delaware’s fresh, estuarine and marine waters.  This advisory applies to all waters and fish species not otherwise explicitly covered by an advisory.

The statewide advisory is issued to protect against eating large amounts of fish and fish that have not been tested or that may contain unidentified chemical contaminants. One meal is defined as an eight-ounce serving for adults and as a three-ounce serving for children. The statewide general advisory is consistent with a national advisory issued by the EPA and FDA, and with general advice given by many states throughout the country.  Delaware issues more stringent advice for specific waters when justified by the data.

People who choose to eat species under advisories can take steps to reduce exposure. Contaminants tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue, so proper cleaning and cooking techniques can significantly reduce levels of PCBs, dioxins, chlorinated pesticides and other organic chemicals. Larger fish of a given species will likely have higher concentrations. To reduce your risks of ingesting these chemical contaminants:

  • Remove all skin.
  • Slice off fat belly meat along the bottom of the fish.
  • Cut away any fat above the fish’s backbone.
  • Cut away the V-shaped wedge of fat along the lateral line on each side of the fish.
  • Bake or broil trimmed fish on a rack or grill so some of the remaining fat drips away.
  • Discard any drippings. Do not eat drippings or use them for cooking other foods.

However, these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe levels of mercury from fish.

The Delaware Fish Contaminants Committee, with representatives from DNREC and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), recommends sampling and has overseen the collection of fish tissue samples from Delaware’s streams, ponds, estuaries, and ocean waters. The committee makes recommendations to the Secretaries of DNREC and DHSS as to the appropriate advisories to put into place.

The revised fish consumption advisories chart with meal advice for fish caught in Delaware waterways and information on the monitoring program can be found on DNREC’s web site, http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Advisories.aspx.

In addition, the updated advisory will be listed in the fish consumption advisories chart in the 2014 Delaware Fishing Guide that will be available at local tackle shops and fishing license dealers in early 2014. The Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health also posts fish advisory signs along waterways with consumption advisories.

For more information, contact Dr. Rick Greene, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship, 302-739-9939.

Visit the following U.S. government websites for information on federal fish consumption advisories, on mercury in fish and shellfish, and on how to safely select and serve fresh and frozen fish.

Contact: 
DNREC Public Affairs, Melanie Rapp, 302-739-9902
DHSS:  Rita Landgraf, Secretary; Jill Fredel, Director of Communications, 302-255-9047,
Pager 302-357-7498, Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov


DNREC’s first beneficial-reuse marsh restoration project succeeds with thin-layer spray application

DAGSBORO (May 22, 2013) – Delaware’s first foray into beneficial-reuse marsh restoration recently twinned maintenance dredging and “thin-layer” spray application of dredge spoil material as a one-two punch for reinvigorating a faltering marsh on Pepper Creek in Dagsboro.Thin-layer application sprayed on Pepper Creek marsh at 3,000 gallons per minute. The project – a collaborative effort with the Center for Inland Bays, spearheaded by DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship and entailing many other department programs – involved extensive planning, environmental permitting and the customizing of equipment for the innovative dredging and thin-layer application.

The opportunity was ripe for a thin-layer beneficial-reuse restoration project at the 47-acre site within a state wildlife area on Piney Point in Sussex County. Upland dredge spoil disposal sites used in the past are filling up, and also can be costly to lease and maintain. The alternative of applying dredge material back onto tidal wetlands  supplies wetlands with extra sediment that helps maintain surface elevations above rising sea levels. Wetlands also use the nutrients in the supplemental material to increase plant cover and surface stability. The maintenance dredge in the navigation channel at the marsh pumping dredge spoil to the spray system.

Thin-layer disposal has been successfully deployed along the Gulf Coast for tidal marsh restoration to treat deteriorating areas, but never before in Delaware. At Pepper Creek, thin-layer dredge disposal applied sediment in the form of silt slurry to the marsh surface by pumping dredge material through a specially-constructed pipeline and spray-nozzle system. Specialized equipment for the project – to transport the dredged material from the main barge in the navigation channel to the shoreline – included flexible piping and a pivoting nozzle mounted on a mini-barge that can be moved along the marsh edge and up channels to extend the reach of sprayed material.

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara noted that the thin-layer project at Pepper Creek marsh simultaneously fulfilled multiple objectives for the state and was a model for environmental cooperation. “By working together across the agency and with the Center for the Inland Bays, the Pepper Creek project achieved department goals, at the same time improving boating safety, preserving wildlife habitat, restoring critical wetlands and improving water quality,” he said. “Adopting this innovative approach will significantly improve the environmental outcome for the marsh and other restoration sites, at a fraction of the cost of the traditional way of doing business.”

DNREC had disparate goals at the marsh restoration site, all of which complemented thin-layer beneficial-reuse application. The Shoreline & Waterway Management Section needed to explore alternatives for disposing of material from maintenance dredging. The Watershed Assessment Section has long been interested in the potential of thin-layer application for improving coastal wetlands. DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife has a vested interest in preparing its wildlife areas for sea level rise by way of maintaining important coastal habitat. The Division of Water’s Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section was keen on researching the dredge and spray technique to support their permit reviews. Meanwhile, DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Programs lent support during planning and permitting phases, while the Center for Inland Bays was a major partner throughout the project. The CIB also supplied funding for a portion of the pipeline needed on Pepper Creek and continues to monitor aspects of it while helping with planning for future projects using the thin-layer technique.

“This thin-layer project delivered ecological benefits through a collaborative process,” said Frank Piorko, director, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship. “Our wetlands science team provided funding and program direction for a shoreline assessment performed by the Center for the Inland Bays. DNREC’s Shoreline & Waterway Management staff provided technical and operations expertise and support to modify equipment, explore a new beneficial use of sediment as a demonstration effort, and the entire team now looks forward to monitoring this location and moving forward in a new direction for waterway management.” 

DNREC’s research crew originally selected the thin-layer spray disposal site along Pepper Creek because it is adjacent to the dredging project and was deemed in need of restoration. Highly-sensitive equipment for measuring surface elevation found it to have lower elevation than other tidal wetlands in the Inland Bays, and therefore more vulnerable to rising sea levels. If tidal wetlands cannot accrue or accrete sediment quickly enough to keep pace with water levels, a marsh will eventually convert to open water. Coastal wetlands can also migrate inland slowly if the shoreline is unobstructed by manmade materials.

The silt slurry was sprayed on the marsh at approximately 3,000 gallons per minute. The slurry was composed of approximately 85-90 percent water with sediment particles suspended in the water. Part of the planning effort involved anticipating potential runoff and reduced water clarity. As a precaution, the team also installed sediment traps in the major wetland guts and ditches using hay bales and straw logs secured with wooden stakes. The traps allowed water to flow past during the tide cycles and did not cutoff fish passage, but caught and held sediment particles until they could settle out of the water column. Work on the project also adhered to state and federal permit conditions that called for avoiding negative impacts to fisheries and marsh dwelling species.

DNREC applied up to 6 inches of sediment to the large emergent wetland. With each tide cycle, the applied material dispersed across the marsh surface, leaving an even layer that will settle over the next few months. The areas of marsh where the work was conducted were monitored daily and found to be accreting uniformly at acceptable levels.

 Small areas where grasses were knocked down by force of the sprayer will be replanted in time for the summer growing season. Site monitoring for detailed indicators such as plant cover, surface elevation and below-ground root volume will continue for two years.  Results gathered from the Pepper Creek project will be used to support similar projects in the future.

 Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 212

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Nominations sought for Delaware’s 2013 Wetland Warrior: Award honors exemplary efforts that benefit the state’s wetlands

DOVER (April 9, 2013) – DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program is seeking nominations for the 2013 Delaware Wetland Warrior Award, which recognizes exemplary efforts to protect wetlands and the critical services they provide to all Delawareans.

The Wetland Warrior award, now in its sixth year, is presented annually to a citizen, organization, business or group that has demonstrated outstanding efforts to benefit Delaware wetlands through outreach and education, monitoring and assessment, or restoration and protection. The award will be presented on Governor’s Day, Thursday, July 25, at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington.

Information on submitting a nomination is available on DNREC’s Delaware Wetlands web page. Nominations must be submitted by Friday, June 21. For more information, please contact Wetland Outreach Specialist Maggie Pletta at 302-739-9939, or email Margaret.Pletta@delaware.gov.

“The award recognizes wetland stewards who have made an effort to help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the natural services provided by wetlands that contribute to our quality of life including clean water, flood and storm protection, and wildlife habitat,” said Pletta. “Wetland Warriors are Delaware’s environmental heroes – who work tirelessly to slow wetland loss, help restore degraded wetlands, preserve habitat, increase awareness of the value of wetlands and bolster support for their protection.”

The 2012 Wetland Warrior recipients were:

  • Clif Bakhsh of Middletown, a member of Delaware Ducks Unlimited’s Appoquinimink Chapter who has been active for more than 25 years in numerous local and national roles, was recognized for his dedication to preserving open space in Delaware and to educating children about the benefits of wetlands.
  • David Carter, a biologist and wetland professional with DNREC for more than 25 years, was recognized for his use of innovative planning and funding tools to improve the management and protection of wetlands in the state, as well as supporting outreach and education initiatives such as Thank You Delaware Bay.

For a complete list of past recipients, visit DNREC’s Wetland Warrior Page.

Delaware has more than 320,000 acres of wetlands, comprising about 25 percent of the state’s area. Wetlands protect lives and property from the impacts of floods and storms, filter pollutants and improve water quality, reduce erosion and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Almost every part of our state is within one mile of a wetland – making wetland protection vital to our health and safety.

DNREC studies indicate that over the past 15 years, more than 3,896 acres of wetlands were lost statewide due to conversion to other land uses. This acreage is significant because in the previous 10-year period, the total statewide wetland loss was 1,996 acres. These recent trends make recognizing the conservationists who have prioritized wetlands even more important. It is through natural resource stewards, such as Wetland Warrior, that Delaware will protect its natural treasures.

Check out the “How You Can Help” webpage to learn more about opportunities to protect wetlands. Here you can find the Wetland Public Participation Guidebook, a comprehensive resource developed to inspire citizens to take actions to protect wetlands. Also featured is the latest information on wetland health, wetland loss studies, regulations, wetland impacts and how they can be prevented, and how the public can get involved with local land use decisions that could affect wetlands. Also on the webpage is a new wetlands video highlighting wetland benefits, Purify, Provide, and Protect.  

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 137

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