Visitors walking past the newly replenished beach next to Ruddertowne say the sand looks brown – more like dirt than beach sand. Officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the color is normal.
Ruddertowne developer Dewey Beach Enterprises was given a permit from Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to replenish the beach on Van Dyke Avenue and Rehoboth Bay in Dewey Beach.
Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Enforcement Jeffrey Steen said he inspected the beach Aug. 6 and 13, and he noticed the material that was freshly sifted looked darker and browner than other sand. Material that had been sifted a few days earlier was considerably lighter in color, he said.
Steen said the longer the sand is exposed to sunlight, the lighter it will be.
Steen also said Chris Sommerfield, of University of Delaware, analyzed a sample of the material. “The grain size indicated it was 91 percent sand,” he said. The material contained less than 2 percent fill and clay, he said. “Which are smaller in grain size than sand,” he said.
Brian Gore, a local musician who performs regularly in Dewey Beach, contacted the corps Aug. 4 and 15, saying he found rusty nails, wire and pieces of asphalt on the beach. He said the panels used to sift the sand are not like a screen, but more like a barbeque grill, with slots half-inch in size. “It is very easy for long narrow objects such as nails to pass through this. I was also concerned that the smaller pieces of asphalt would also pass through the sifter,” he said.
Steen said DBE first removed asphalt from the former parking lot at Ruddertowne and took it to a landfill. The sand underneath was used to replenish the beach, Steen said.
“There is some very small fraction of bits of asphalt in that material, but that is being screened out,” he said.
“I didn’t see any asphalt on the two occasions I was there,” Steen said. “We just didn’t see it.”
Virgil Holmes, manager of DNREC Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section, said, DNREC officials inspected the site Aug. 13 and 14.
“The sand being used was obtained on-site and was analyzed for grain size by Dr. Chris Sommerfield of the University of Delaware to determine its suitability for beach replenishment. All of the sand is being screened prior placement,” Holmes said in an email. “There is no evidence that recycled asphalt is being used to replenish the beach.”