Lewes wastewater failure is topic Jan. 29

Plant operator White Marsh says report not yet ready
January 24, 2020

Lewes officials are expected present their investigation into the malfunction at the Howard Seymour Reclamation Facility at a public meeting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Rollins Community Center.

The malfunction, which lasted about 10 days, resulted in more than 5 million gallons of partially treated wastewater being discharged into neighboring marsh and Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. 

At the Lewes Board of Public Works meeting Jan. 22, BPW President Preston Lee said the city has received a report from the manufacturer of microfilters that failed and is awaiting a report from plant operator White Marsh Environmental Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tidewater Utilities Inc.

Lee asked Tidewater Vice President Bruce Patrick to send a report by Monday, Jan. 27, at the latest, two days before the meeting; however, he was told it may not be possible.

Mayor Ted Becker urged Lee to have some report ready for the Jan. 29 meeting.

“Even if you get a report as to what has happened and where you are now,” he said. “I think the public needs to be informed as to where we are currently. It’s been a while.”

The situation began Dec. 18, when a malfunction forced White Marsh to bypass the wastewater treatment process. Lee said the problem appears to be failed turbidity meters, which check the quality of water before it is used to backwash plant filters.

Initially believed to be minor, the issue turned out to be major, clogging all the facility’s filters, and taking the plant offline for about 10 days until replacement filters could be delivered from Canada. 

The facility was back online Dec. 28, and crews continued to clean the old filters to be placed back into the system for redundancy. But another malfunction Jan. 1 forced White Marsh to bypass the system again. While it only last two hours, DNREC issued a press release Jan. 2 to alert the public.

On Jan. 7, the Lewes Board of Public Works announced a joint investigation with Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the City of Lewes into the the facility’s recent failures.


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