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Love Creek needs more love

January 22, 2016

Flint, Michigan, where people are suffering serious health issues related to a lead-­tainted water supply, is a long way from Sussex County. But the environmentally compromised Flint River leading to those issues represents a grim reminder that ignoring problems can have serious consequences.

A recent article in the Cape Gazette detailed bacteria issues in the upper reaches of Love Creek. A citizen­-science monitoring effort, in cooperation with the Center for the Inland Bays, focused on the problems that led the federal Environmental Protection Agency to designate Love Creek an impaired waterway 10 years ago. Any time an article uses words like enterococcus - ­a bacteria related to animal fecal matter including humans - ­which can cause diarrhea and other health issues, we need to stand up and take notice.

The greatest concentration of the bacteria is in the Hetty Fisher Glade, a small waterway that flows into Love Creek. All around those upper reaches of Love Creek, there has been significant residential development over the past 15 years. The Love Creek watershed has an unusually high number of septic systems, more than 1,300, and there is concern that failures in those systems may be driving the high fecal-­related bacteria levels. Although more analysis is clearly needed to more precisely pinpoint the cause of the high bacteria levels, the sooner Sussex County’s central wastewater systems expand into this area the better.

The land in that area is zoned for development; the pace of people moving in is quickening, and word of the allure of Sussex County continues to spread. With construction of the new Love Creek Elementary School about to commence, there will be further incentive to develop in the area.

Developers can help by expanding beneficial vegetated buffers beyond the minimal requirements imposed by the county. The state can help by sending in a team of scientists to identify the problem so a precise solution can be pursued.

All of us can help by applying sustained political pressure at the county and state levels so we can head off a worsening environmental problem that could adversely affect our health and economy.

 

  • 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.