Two of Delaware's largest water suppliers have offered to help Milton remedy its problem with water supply.
Tidewater Utilities, which provides water to about 10,000 customers in the Rehoboth Beach-Lewes area, was the latest company to offer its services to the town at its Jan. 7 town council meeting. In November, council met with officials from Artesian Water Resources about connecting the town to its system. In both proposals, Milton could purchase water from the utility when and if its own system reaches its allocation limit or in case of emergencies.
The town failed to secure money from the state to build a new water tower and water treatment facility last spring. After it was revealed early last year that the town was losing track of about 11 million gallons per quarter, residents voted down a referendum to borrow $3.45 million by a 2-to-1 margin.
Engineers from CABE Associates said the town's storage should match the town's daily use plus water needed for fire protection in order to have an adequate supply. They said Milton is about 319,000 gallons short.
Since last spring, town officials have diligently worked to find the missing water and improve water monitoring. The town hired Steve McCabe of Pennoni Associates to take a second look at the system; Pennoni offered several solutions to fix the town's issues. Among those suggestions was an interconnection with a neighboring utility that could supplement Milton's current system.
“We believe it would be much less expensive than the approach [Milton officials] were looking at about a year ago,” said Tidewater President Jerry Esposito. “We could possibly provide a revenue source for the town as well through a rebate program for customers who would hook to it or through some way of purchasing water from the town.”
Tidewater has proposed a two-way interconnection that would require the town to construct a 12-inch main from the wastewater facility on Atlantic Street to the utility's system near Vincent Overlook on Cave Neck Road. Tidewater Director of Engineering Jeremy Kalmbacher estimated the cost to lay the pipe at about $1.7 million. Under the proposed scenario, Milton would completely own the pipe. Kalmbacher said it would give Milton a possible revenue source in the future.
“If there were new developments that came in along that area, Tidewater could potentially tap that main to serve those new developments,” he said.
Because the water would go through Milton's main, the town could implement a wheeling fee, a charge to send water through its pipe. The fee Milton could charge for use of its main could be levied per gallon, per connection or per development, Kalmbacher said.
Tidewater has more than enough water to share with Milton. Kalmbacher said Tidewater has seven full-time water plants and nine wells that produced about 500 million gallons of water last year in its Rehoboth district. The utility has a 750,000-gallon water tower next to Home Depot in Lewes and is proposing to build a 1.5 million-gallon tank at Beacon Middle School on Route 24.
Mayor Cliff Newlands pointed out that it's unlikely the town would ever have the opportunity to sell water to Tidewater; Kalmbacher acknowledged it is unlikely as well. Kalmbacher added, though, that Milton could negotiate a scenario where excess water could be pumped into Tidewater's system in the winter to offset water it used at its peak times in the summer, thus saving money.
When asked why the utility would accept a scenario that had no real benefit for Tidewater, Kalmbacher said, “It really wouldn't cost us any money if you owned the pipes, and it's nice to have an interconnection for redundancy.”