Foundation: Citizens must demand clean-water initiatives

CIB executive director Chris Bason honored at annual dinner
May 16, 2018

Center for the Inland Bays Executive Director Chris Bason received the Inland Bays Foundation 2018 Environmental Award at the foundation’s fourth annual Love Our Inland Bays dinner April 25 at Irish Eyes in Lewes.

“What is going on in Indian River is completely unacceptable, and it’s never going to happen again,” Bason said to loud applause from attendees. “It’s all out in the open now, and we have the opportunity to make a change.”

A recent CIB report found that the upper Indian River and Bay are highly polluted by nitrates and other nutrients, caused or contributed to by Mountaire’s poultry processing operations. While Mountaire admits that an  August 2017 wastewater system failure released high levels of nitrates and other contaminants, it has denied the incident played a major role in the area’s groundwater pollution, attributing it to long-term agricultural operations, aging septic systems and other sources.

The report also found that neither the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control nor the Environmental Protection Agency have enforced Mountaire’s compliance with multiple permits and consent orders. 

Bason said once DNREC’s investigation into Mountaire’s wastewater discharge issues is complete, the CIB will share its recommendations with legislators. He urged the audience to speak out to legislators.

“Tell them how important the river and bays are to our health and the economy,” he said. “Stay positive, and don’t stop.”

“Get engaged,” foundation President Dave Jaeger echoed. “Mail letters, make calls. Our elected officials in Delaware are accessible - you all know them.”

Several Delaware legislators attended the dinner, including Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Rep. Ronald Gray, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns, Fenwick Island Mayor Gene Langan, South Bethany Mayor Pat Voveris and Sen. Tom Carper’s representative Karen McGrath.

“Clean water is the No. 1 initiative for healthy communities,” Hall-Long said.

Bason thanked his father, Clem, for instilling in him a love of water and nature.

“I got into this career because my dad took me fishing,” he said. “We lived close to the Delaware River in New Castle County, so we went to the river to catch weakfish. I got one on the top hook and one on the bottom hook. For a 10-year-old kid, that was something! I took them home and of course Mom was super excited. I can remember her frying them up that night. 

“If I could ask anything of anyone here, take your family out to the water and show them what you know and love about the area,” Bason said in closing.