A clean water bill released from committee June 5 would add $25 million a year for the next three years to clean up Delaware’s waterways.
House Bill 200 would amend Delaware Code to create a five-member trust that would issue bonds used for grants, loans and other public-private projects designed to improve Delaware’s drinking water, build drainage projects to alleviate flooding, and prevent nutrient and pollution runoff.
Standing on the steps of Legislative Hall, about 100 clean water advocates and officials attended the fifth annual clean water rally in support of the proposed legislation.
“Clean water is not a privilege. It’s a human right, and that’s why we’re here today,” said bill sponsor House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear.
Over the next five years, the bill states, Delaware will need $500 million in water and wastewater system upgrades, $150 million in stormwater upgrades, and $75 million to remove toxic pollutants from waterways.
Collin O’Mara, chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation and former secretary of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, spent years working to curb pollution runoff into Delaware’s waterways.
He said the bill is needed to improve water quality in such communities as Ellendale and Blades - two that have experienced toxic water in recent years - and to protect low-lying areas from flooding.
“This is one of the most important clean water initiatives in the country,” O’Mara said. “Folks in Oak Orchard are getting flooded out every other weekend.”
Chris Bason, executive director of the Center for the Inland Bays, for years has advocated cleaning up water quality in the Inland Bays, and more recently to improve drinking water for residents living near the Mountaire poultry plant, where nutrient levels have tested consistently above levels considered safe.
He said the bill is a great step forward to dedicate money that will reduce toxins and nutrient pollution in Delaware’s waterways, and install necessary flood controls.
“The problems are not going away, so we need to invest more money,” Bason said.
The bill is now on the House ready list.