Lewes BPW has a tough decision to make

February 3, 2023

I don’t envy the Lewes Board of Public Works in making a decision on long-range plans for the city’s wastewater treatment facility. Looking at the cost estimates and the non-cost, multi-criteria analysis prepared by consultant GHD, it seems an easy choice.

The existing facility is in a low-lying area and will be vulnerable to flooding in the future. Option 1 to harden the existing plant to allow continued operation until 2050 could cost ratepayers 40% to 55% more on their monthly bills. It garnered a score of 65 in the MCA, where higher is better.

Option 2 to build a new plant on high ground is forecast to cost ratepayers a minimum of 140% more – although estimates were based on old technology. Newer processes reportedly use 75% less land, are considerably less expensive to build, are easier and cheaper to operate, and consume about 30% less energy. MCA scores for the Option 2 alternatives were 65 and 66. 

Option 3 to send Lewes’ wastewater to Sussex County’s to-be-expanded Wolfe Neck facility, with the combined effluent discharged to the existing Lewes outfall and/or to constructed wetlands, will have a minimal impact of no rate increase to a 15% impact on ratepayers. MCA scores on both alternatives were both 95. The environmental impact from substantially higher volumes of effluent discharged at the Lewes outfall in the canal between Lewes and Roosevelt Inlet, on the adjacent wetlands and properties, and on the nearby Delaware Bay beaches were not considered in the MCA.  

While Option 3 seems best, questions and comments at the Jan. 23 public meeting showed distrust of Sussex County politicians, concern for the loss of control of both the quality and quantity of effluent discharged to the canal, and a suspicion that allowing use of the Lewes outfall will further enable irresponsible development in surrounding areas. Another concern was the use of the land after the plant is decommissioned. Residential use would be inappropriate given the proximity to wetlands, the site’s historical use as the town dump, and the short time horizon until American Legion Road will see frequent flooding.  

The comment period is open until Monday, Feb. 6. I urge all ratepayers to let BPW know your preferred option. Go to

I wish the decision did not have to be made on Sussex County’s time frame. I wish that when the old wastewater treatment facility is eventually decommissioned, the site might be put to environmentally responsible use. A solar farm?  A windmill or three? Let’s do some good, give some hope, take back some control.   

Barbara Curtis
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