The Delaware Clean Water Advisory Council unanimously approved a $10 million loan to the city of Rehoboth Beach for upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The upgrades will not increase the plant’s capacity but will improve its mechanical, electrical and structural capabilities. Among the upgrades are a building a new maintenance and electrical building, installing an emergency generator, replacing pumps and valves and painting and repairing storage tanks. Besides updating the plant, the upgrades will reduce the city’s operating and maintenance costs.
Construction on the plant upgrades is expected to begin in spring 2014 and end in spring 2016.
The improvements are part of the city’s ocean outfall project, but the two projects will be funded separately through the council’s Clean Water Revolving Fund. The $20 million ocean outfall project will dump treated effluent through a pipe from the treatment plant off State Road to a discharge point 6,000 feet off Deauville Beach. Together, the upgrades and the outfall are expected to cost $30 million.
The city awaits a decision from DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara on an environmental impact statement for the outfall – a requirement for state funding. Although DNREC officials said a decision would be released in June, Mayor Sam Cooper said he does not expect a decision until early July after the legislative session ends. He said expects the statement and the project will be approved.
The loan for the plant upgrades is for 20 years at 3.15 percent interest, with payments made twice a year. The annual debt service is estimated at $710,000, which combined with a previous $52,000 loan for improvements to the sewer system in Schoolvue, brings the city’s total annual obligation to $762,000 not including debt service on the outfall itself. Cooper said the cost of the outfall will not entirely fall on the city, because Sussex County, which has an agreement with Rehoboth to treat wastewater from Dewey Beach and Henlopen Acres, is responsible for 40 percent of the cost.
In addition, Cooper said the city charter dictates the city have a referendum to borrow the money for the outfall and treatment plant projects.
“We have to get a favorable vote from the taxpayers,” he said.
At this point, there is no timetable for a referendum on the plant upgrades and no terms for the loan for the outfall project. Cooper said a favorable decision from O’Mara is the next step. Once they have that, Cooper said, the commissioners would then form a series of task orders for engineers GHD to design the outfall, plant upgrades and force main. Cooper said he wanted to wait until the city had the go-ahead from DNREC before beginning the design.
“It would be ill-advised to design something you don’t have the OK for,” he said
Regarding approval of the plant upgrades, Cooper said, “It’s another piece of the puzzle. We still have a lot of pieces to go.”