Lewes wastewater plant worth exploring

May 24, 2021

A trip to your local water treatment plant always is an eye-opener. As we live on a finite planet, with water as our most important resource, the questions of where does our wastewater go and how it is treated must be addressed.

I took my first trip to the local water treatment facility, that I remember, as a member of the Man and His Environment class at Lane High School in Charlottesville, Va. At St. Andrew’s in Middletown, our AP Environmental Science students and I would make an annual trek to the Middletown Odessa Townsend state-of-the-art plant where operator Brian Blackburn and crew so well manage wastewater that it ultimately re-enters the Appoquinimink River free of excess nitrogen and phosphorus; you actually can drink the effluent. 

A few days ago, Earl Webb kindly set up a tour for Carol Ann and me to see how operators Darrin Gordon and Austin Calaman and team tend the Lewes BPW water treatment plant; we were impressed.

The plant presents well. The site appears well tended even given the great number of holding tanks and basins and pipes and equipment; thoughtful redundancy abounds, and, throughout, sewage smells are minimal. 

Lots of perpetually-running motors and electricity are involved, and we were astounded by the monthly electricity bill of well over $50,000. As we mentioned to Darrin, all the more reason for Lewes BPW to embrace more renewable energy like the several-acre solar field planned for next year; given the evidence from over 2,000 of the world’s leading climatologists, that climate change is real and is caused by humanity’s release of excessive carbon dioxide and methane and other greenhouse gases, existing solar and wind technology amply meets our energy needs now and for the future.

As we admired the ospreys and egrets and redwings and other birds working the healthy marsh beside the plant, we noted that the effluent from this plant, too, was free of excess nutrients, the nitrogen and phosphorus, and was drinkable as well.

Our only encouragement is for Darrin and Austin and their team to better communicate all that goes on there on behalf of the citizens of Lewes. An active social media (e.g. Facebook) presence will help, as will a more vibrant and accessible webpage (where, for example, customers could easily compare annual electricity usage). We need to know all the good things, and challenges, that are part of the earnest efforts of those at the plant. Too, continuing to consult with others (e.g. longtime board member Robert Kennedy has lots of knowledge and wisdom to share), and with other water treatment facilities would be helpful.

And, we encourage school groups and others to take a look, to take advantage of a tour of our well-run water treatment plant, to see how we contribute to our local water cycle. 

Like proud parents, Darrin and Austin would be glad to show you around and teach you how to appreciate life’s most valuable resource.

Peter McLean, Ph.D.
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