Let’s get treated wastewater plan right

August 7, 2017

The Allen Harim/Artesian Resources Corp. plan to send treated wastewater to 1,300 acres of spray irrigation fields west of Milton is receiving lots of public attention.

A recent hearing focused on a permit issued in 2013 allowing construction of a wastewater treatment plant on the site.

An amendment would allow storage lagoons and spray-irrigation fields to accept treated wastewater from Allen Harim.

Focus should not be on whether this plan should be allowed, but on conditions under which it should be allowed and how to make those conditions work for everyone. This will be increasingly important as Sussex continues to develop residentially and as residential development interfaces with the important agricultural economy.

Allen Harim's poultry processing facility at Harbeson, an important employer and food producer, is one of the major facilities in Sussex. For decades it has dumped treated wastewater into Beaverdam Creek and ultimately Broadkill River.

Due to public pressure, wastewater treatment has improved greatly. In the past two years, the company has spent $11 million to upgrade treatment even further. This latest plan will eliminate disposal into Beaverdam Creek. New regulations will require higher levels of treatment - the same levels required of wastewater used around the nation to irrigate golf courses and athletic fields where there is human contact.

It's important that we get this right, just as it's important to get disposal of treated wastewater from residential communities right. Technology is there to make it happen, so the treated wastewater becomes a fertilizing resource rather than a pollutant. There have to be guaranteed safeguards, monitoring and regular reports to the public to ensure it's being done right.

The good news is that it can be done right. Those 1,300 acres of spray irrigation fields, woods and lagoons should be viewed as part of Sussex County's important open space infrastructure and a wildlife refuge for creatures being displaced by new homes and communities.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.