To start 2014, the Sussex County engineering department has begun the process to create new water and sewer districts in the Long Neck area.
The proposed districts could serve as many as eight subdivisions along Herring Creek and Guinea Creek north of Baywood: Winding Creek Village, Herring Creek Estates, Pinewater Farms, Pinewater Woods, Bay Hollow Estates, Big Oak Landing, Short Hills and Shawn's Hideaway.
County officials will have a public hearing to determine district boundaries as staff determines costs and fees before a vote on the districts can be taken. Residents will vote on the proposal after a public meeting and public hearing and after council approves district boundaries. If residents reject the plan, it would not go to council for action.
“People will get an opportunity to vote and be part of this or not,” said County Engineer Mike Izzo.
The proposed sewer district would encompass more than 900 acres with about 630 EDUs, while the proposed water district would include more than 230 acres – mostly in the area of Winding Creek Village – with about 130 EDUs. An EDU – or equivalent dwelling unit – is the number of potential hooks up in a district.
While the county operates more than 20 sewer districts with about 63,000 customers, it operates only one water district serving Dewey Beach.
John Ashman, county director of utility planning, said residents of Winding Creek Village contacted county staff about creating a water district because of problems with water in their individual wells.
Ashman said state officials have been sampling residents' wells for the past three months and high concentrations of nitrates and chloride have been detected. Ashman said state health officials believe there could be salt-water intrusion into wells from Guinea Creek.
Ashman said sampling is required because the county submitted a notice of intent to the state's drinking water revolving fund. “They received the sampling to determine the water quality,” he said.
Council asked Ashman and Izzo whether residents had contacted a private firm for water service. “They would rather be in a county-run system,” Ashman replied.
Izzo said by state law, the county can mandate that all residents in a district hook into a water system while private companies can't require hook up. “It's on a voluntary basis,” he said.
“What is our liability? If we have knowledge that water from the wells is undrinkable, do we keep that information to ourselves?” asked Councilman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach.
Ashman said the staff from Delaware Health and Social Services is aware of the community's water issues. Izzo added that many Winding Creek residents are using bottled water.