Regulations can build public confidence

September 29, 2017

A reference in the Sept. 22 edition of the Cape Gazette stood out because of its unusual nature. An article discussed the experience level of a California contractor hired by Rehoboth Beach for its treated wastewater outfall project. The reference came in a discussion about the potential perception problem created by dumping treated effluent in ocean waters.

A municipal employee for a California water district talked about an ocean outfall built to discharge extra-salty water left over from a reverse osmosis process that removes salt from seawater. The process provides fresh water for a parched region. People there were concerned that the effluent would make kids sick or harm marine animals. "Mulligan said the perception was ... mitigated by public confidence in California's regulatory climate, which is very strict."

"Public confidence in [the state's] regulatory climate."

That's a statement we rarely hear in Delaware government, but one which should be welcome. Government exists to take care of important issues collectively - issues such as civil defense, public health, public transportation and environmental protection, which typically require collective effort and oversight.

No one wants unnecessary regulation. But when natural resources - particularly those like clean water and beaches vital to quality of life and tourism - become threatened by proposed activity or negligence, we should very much want regulations in place to avoid degradation.

Just as importantly, we need sensible officials to enforce the regulations fairly, enthusiastically and in an informative manner so the public knows what they're up to and why.

Regulations need to be widely embraced for the positive outcomes they seek to sustain, and vigilance is needed to spot problems early, when solutions are more affordable and less contentious to address.

Rehoboth's $52.5 million outfall represents a major component of the resort's infrastructure. State environmental officials must cultivate public confidence by making it clear they will be monitoring the system carefully, now and as long into the future as it is operating.


  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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