Artesian’s acquisition of Tidewater perfect for Milton

November 5, 2021

A mile-long stretch of river bottom in the Broadkill grows what were once considered some of the best oysters on Delmarva. The beds on either side of the Oyster Rocks Road landing thrived in the just-right saltiness that exists between the fresh water at the head of the river in Milton and the sea saltwater at Roosevelt Inlet.

Watermen tonged oysters out of the beds for decades until the state eventually closed them. King Cole Cannery’s feedlot operation for beef cattle, and wastewater pumped into the river from Milton’s treatment plant, both upstream, contributed unacceptable levels of coliform pollution to the waters where the filter-feeding bivalves live. Those closures about 50 years ago were a sad day for residents of the Broadkill’s surrounding area.

The feedlot operation closed 20 years ago or so, but although Milton’s wastewater treatment operation has improved through the years, the state has maintained the shellfish closure because of the pollution danger that could arise from a potential malfunction at the plant spilling untreated wastewater into the Broadkill. Similar malfunctions happened very recently at the Rehoboth Beach treatment plant and within the past two years at the Lewes plant.

Milton officials had signed a contract with Tidewater Utilities for construction of a new wastewater treatment facility to replace the existing, aging plant. For some confounding reason, the state had approved continuation of discharge from the new plant into the river.

Now, however, Artesian Wastewater Management is moving to acquire Tidewater. With that acquisition comes the opportunity for Artesian to incorporate Milton’s wastewater needs into its plans for a new treatment plant and effluent discharge via its extensive spray irrigation complex, rather than river discharge.

Milton is on the verge of annexing hundreds of acres for the proposed Granary at Draper Farm residential community. Over the next 20 years, that could double the size of the town.

Artesian’s timing for acquisition of Tidewater is perfect for getting wastewater out of the Broadkill. That end should be pursued vigorously by town officials so the river’s oysters can once again become a healthy food source for residents of the watershed. 


  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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