DNREC, DHSS issue new fish consumption advisories that reflect continuing improvement in water quality for Delaware waterways

DOVER – New fish consumption advisories issued today by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health (DHSS/DPH) show that the concentration of chemical contaminants in fish caught from Delaware waterways continues to decline – which indicates water quality is improving throughout the state and also means that fish caught in many Delaware waters can be eaten today with lowered concerns about risks to public health.

Fish consumption advisories are recommendations by DNREC and DHSS to limit or avoid eating certain species of fish caught in local waters due to potential health risks from contaminants. The latest advisories convey that anglers and the public can eat more fish caught locally, while keeping health risks low and enjoying the dietary health benefits that fish provide. The agencies’ recommendations on the safe amount of fish that can be eaten are based on the testing of these fish by DNREC and an assessment of the health risks associated with their consumption.

The updated advisories communicate continuing good news to anglers and anyone who would include locally-caught fish in their diet, by following the same trend as the 2016 fish consumption advisories that showed some of the most significant declines in fish tissue contaminant concentrations since the state began assessing contaminants in fish in 1986.

“Seeing the positive results of regional efforts to restore water quality and the health of Delaware’s aquatic resources is very exciting and encouraging,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “I anticipate that, with continued cleanup efforts and cooperation between DNREC, DHSS, and our regional partners who include New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission, that we will continue to see a trend of improvement into the future.”

“The improved water quality allowing people to eat more fish caught in local waterways is good news across the board,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician. “Consuming fish is an essential part of a healthy diet because fish contain so many key nutrients, are low in saturated fat and contain omega-3 fatty acids. The updated advisories will help Delawareans make good decisions for themselves and their families about the right kinds of fish to eat from our state’s waterways, as well as the right amount.”

Many of the contaminants that prompt fish consumption advisories in Delaware are “legacy pollutants” – chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the banned insecticide DDT, and dioxins and furans that were released into waterways in significant quantities in the past. These legacy pollutants are slow to break down in the environment and can accumulate in fish as well as in bottom sediments of lakes, streams and estuaries.

The improvements, evidenced through relaxed advisories, are largely the result of declining PCB concentrations in fish, as much as 50 to 60 percent less in some state waters. The reduction in PCB levels is attributable to several efforts, including state-of-the-science testing to identify, prioritize, and control remaining sources of contaminants and to innovative clean-up strategies, including adding activated carbon and quicklime to sediments that bind contaminants and limit their transfer to the water and fish.

The latest updates to Delaware’s fish consumption advisories include the tidal Delaware River, the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay, Atlantic Coastal waters, Waples Pond, Prime Hook Creek and Slaughter Creek. Additionally, a special study conducted in 2016 and 2017 indicates that the Red Clay Creek in New Castle County can be reinstated this year as a stream suitable for trout stocking by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, more than 30 years after being taken off the state’s trout-fishing list due to contaminant concerns.

Fish consumption advisory data can be found on the DNREC website. Fish consumption advisory charts can be found on DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife website. For more information, please contact John G. Cargill, phone: 302-739-9939 or email: John.Cargill@delaware.gov.

Media contacts:
Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Jill Fredel, DHSS Director of Communications, 302-255-9047

Vol. 48, No. 32


DNREC establishes 21-day timeframe for extended closure of Delaware Bay for recreational shellfish harvest

DOVER – As reported this week to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Surface Water Discharges Section, Kent County’s wastewater treatment plant is back within acceptable water quality levels for the effluent discharged into the Murderkill River – leading DNREC to establish a timeframe for a federally-advised 21-day closure of recreational shellfish harvest in the Delaware Bay north of the Mispillion Inlet.

The 21-day closure in effect for potential public health risks extends from July 24 to Aug. 14.

The closure of shellfish harvest in the Delaware Bay – ordered July 18 by DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin because of the plant’s discharge of undertreated wastewater – is based on US Food and Drug Administration Guidelines under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, and provides adequate public health protection for pathogens of concern, including viruses.

Media contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 47, No. 165


DNREC closes recreational shellfish harvest in north Delaware Bay due to undertreated wastewater from Kent County treatment plant

DOVER – Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn M. Garvin today directed the Kent County wastewater treatment plant to take immediate action to correct an ongoing discharge of undertreated effluent that prompted the Secretary to issue an emergency order for the closure of recreational shellfishing in the Delaware Bay north of the entrance to the Mispillion Inlet. The emergency closure impacts only the harvest of bivalve molluscan shellfish – clams, oysters and mussels – and does not affect the legal harvest of other shellfish species such as crabs and conchs.

The emergency order was necessitated by possible health risks from the undertreated wastewater discharged into the Murderkill River by the Kent County treatment plant. Undertreated wastewater can contaminate shellfish growing areas. While there is no commercial oystering currently taking place in the Delaware Bay, recreational harvest of hard clams does occur at this time of year.

The shellfish closure will last for 21 days after wastewater discharge issues at the Kent County treatment plant have been corrected and the bacterial water quality of the effluent has returned to acceptable levels. The closure timeframe is based on US Food and Drug Administration Guidelines under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, and provides adequate public health protection for pathogens of concern, including viruses.

DNREC also advises not swimming in the affected area of Delaware Bay or other physical contact with the water.

The emergency Secretary’s Order can be found on the DNREC website at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Info/Pages/SecOrders_Regulations.aspx

Media contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 47, No. 162


DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Programs awarded NOAA grant to remove derelict debris from Delaware Bay

DNREC will partner with commercial crabbers to remove “ghost pots”

DOVER – DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Programs has been awarded $90,000 in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program for a project that will remove thousands of derelict or “ghost pots” and other debris from the bottom of heavily-fished areas of the Delaware Bay.

“We appreciate the partnership with NOAA and participating watermen to help reduce the adverse impacts of marine debris – which will benefit the ecological restoration of the Bay, watermen and the state’s commercial crabbing industry,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “Recovering derelict crab pots and other debris from the Delaware Bay will reduce mortality of crabs, fish and other marine species inadvertently trapped in derelict pots. We hope to learn from this experience and apply that knowledge to future management efforts.”

The study includes an assessment that will help identify locations and the abundance of “ghost pots,” and yield important scientific data on their impacts to benthic habitat and marine animals that play an intrinsic role in the ecology of the Bay. Benthic habitat, the ecological region that includes the Bay’s sediment surface and some sub-surface layers, provides spawning and nursery grounds, refuge and foraging areas for blue crab and other commercially-important marine species. Restoring benthic habitat can increase populations of blue crabs, financially benefiting watermen through increased harvests and the potential reuse of derelict crab pots removed from the Bay.

“This project will also advance our understanding of how marine debris impacts the ecology of the Delaware Bay,” said Delaware Coastal Programs Acting Administrator Dr. Robert Scarborough. “Delaware Coastal Programs greatly appreciates this NOAA grant that will not only be used to remove ‘ghost pots,’ but will allow us to gather important scientific data that will guide our efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of marine debris and help us better protect resources in the Delaware Bay.”

The identification and removal of debris will be undertaken during the commercial crabbing off-season from December through February and will rely on partnerships with commercial crabbers. Watermen will be provided with equipment, funded through the grant, to identify and remove pots.

The project represents the first large-scale marine debris removal effort conducted in Delaware waters of the Delaware Bay. This project will run in tandem with a similar crab pot removal project being conducted by the New Jersey Audubon in the New Jersey waters of the Bay, also funded through NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

“Derelict crab pots can create navigational hazards, damage habitats and capture marine species, including harvestable crabs, resulting in lost catch opportunities and financial losses for watermen,” said Nancy Wallace, director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. “We are proud to support Delaware Coastal Programs and their partners to reduce the adverse environmental and economic impacts of derelict pots in the Delaware Bay.”

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program has funded similar projects in neighboring states, including Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.

For more information contact Nicole Rodi, Delaware Coastal Programs at 302-739-9283.

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

Vol. 46, No. 360

Delaware Awarded Three Federal Grants for Bayshore Improvement Projects

Congressional Delegation, Governor’s Office and State Agencies Working Together for Coastal Enhancements

DOVER – The U.S. Federal Highway Administration, as part of its Public Lands Highways Discretionary (PLHD) Program and the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP), has awarded Delaware three grants totaling $1,720,500.00.

A $640,000 Public Lands Highways Discretionary Program grant was awarded to the Delaware Department of Transportation for culvert construction for Prime Hook Road in Milton to reduce flooding, and to aid in the preservation of the wildlife refuge. The project will include construction of culverts along Prime Hook Road, adjacent to the Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge.

Two National Scenic Byways grants will expand ecotourism and recreational opportunities that support the local economy and help conserve the unique and beautiful natural resources of the Delaware Bayshore. The grants advance the goals of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, part of the national vision for America’s Great Outdoors. Delaware’s Route 9 Coastal Heritage Scenic Byway will be improved and enhanced thanks to these two grants totaling nearly $1.1 million. The first, the “Route 9 Coastal Heritage Scenic Byway Scenic Overlooks Project,” a $840,500 grant, will create new areas at six sites along the byway that include safely-defined overlook areas and pedestrian trails. The grant will expand wildlife viewing opportunities in state wildlife areas along Delaware’s Route 9 Scenic Byway – Augustine, Woodland Beach, Little Creek, and Ted Harvey Wildlife Areas. Improvements will include observation towers and platforms, roadway directional signs, information kiosks and interpretive signs highlighting the natural and historic qualities of the area.

The second NSBP grant, “Route 9 Coastal Heritage Byway Planning and Design of a Bicycle/Pedestrian Connector,” for $240,000, will fund planning and design of a community bike and pedestrian trail, which parallels the C&D Branch Canal in Delaware City and a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge. These Byway investments and safety improvements will enhance the quality of life for residents of local communities and visitors by providing opportunities for walking, biking, wildlife viewing and reconnecting to nature.

“Transportation projects get people to work building, help people get to work driving and, in this case, should help to get more people to visit our great state,” said Governor Jack Markell. “The announcement adds important momentum to keep these projects moving.”

“The grant award for culvert construction under Prime Hook Road in the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will have a positive impact on the Prime Hook Beach community and the visitors who enjoy the refuge all year around,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “I supported this funding as a way to address flooding in the area of the refuge, which has created ongoing frustration for residents and visitors. This grant will help remedy the flooding and improve the safety and accessibility through this area of Prime Hook Beach. Additionally, it will improve the water flow between the Refuge’s wetland units, helping to restore the condition and health of the marsh. This is a win-win in my book that will enable Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge to continue to be a popular destination for fishing, hunting and bird watching for its nearly 85,000 visitors each year from all over the United States.”

“These grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation will help DelDOT and DNREC enhance Delaware’s scenic beauty, make our roads safer and less prone to flooding, and expand trails and recreational opportunities for every Delawarean,” U. S. Senator Chris Coons said. “Delawareans and visitors will be able to enjoy our coastal communities, Delaware City, and Route 9 along the coast as part of these investments. I look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition, and will continue to work to ensure that Delaware’s transportation and recreational options remain top notch.”

“The funding announced today are investments in infrastructure that will create jobs and make Delaware an even more beautiful place to live,” said U. S. Congressman John Carney. “The improvements to both Route 9 and Prime Hook Road will allow Delawareans and visitors to more fully enjoy the beauty of that part of our state, while preserving the surrounding wildlife. I’m excited that these projects are moving ahead, and look forward to their completion.”

“DelDOT is thrilled to have the ability to help implement the infrastructure these three grants will make possible for Delaware’s shoreline,” Delaware Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said. “Our goal will be to safeguard the sensitive natural features these projects will traverse, while enhancing the public’s ability to access and enjoy them.”

The Congressional Delegation and Governor’s Office have pledged to continue to work together to involve the federal Fish and Wildlife Office in addressing flood-prone areas of Prime Hook.

“The state and residents of Prime Hook continue to work with federal Fish & Wildlife officials on issues affecting homes. One commitment we made to the community was working with the delegation to secure funds to improve the only public access point to Prime Hook,” Markell said. “While there’s much work to do, this team effort hopefully will make things better and give some relief to Prime Hook residents.

“These grants will provide amenities which will help thousands of Delawareans and visitors experience the world-class wildlife of the Delaware Bayshore and create new opportunities for tourism and outdoor recreation,” said DNREC Secretary Collin P. O’Mara. “Improving the flow of water within the wetlands of Prime Hook Refuge will help protect the road and access for area residents, also potentially reducing the impacts of flooding to the community.”

Cathy Rossi (Markell) 302.367.6222
Emily Spain (Carper) 202.224.2441
Ian Koski (Coons) 202.224.5042
James Allen (Carney) 202.225.4165
Geoff Sundstrom (DelDOT) 302.943.7098
Melanie Rapp, (DNREC) 302.233.1294