Mayor Mills on Clear Space; Rehoboth wastewater insights

July 30, 2021

Stan Mills, in his first year as Rehoboth Beach mayor, feels like the resort is having a good season. With summer hitting its peak, he said in an interview this week that parking meter revenues are ahead of last year.

“I think we’re doing good - pretty well.  Business is pretty much phenomenal, according to the people I’m talking to. Those who have taken advantage of outdoor dining opportunities are ecstatic. 

“Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, outdoor dining helped some restaurants have a good year despite the obvious problems.”

I asked Mills if he is enjoying being mayor.  “There are lots of satisfying moments,” he said.  “Is it fun? Truthfully, it’s not fun; but as I said, there are lots of satisfying moments.”

He’s hoping that Clear Space’s plans to expand will eventually become one of those satisfying moments. “I’ve studied the issues thoroughly and, as I’ve said, I think the process in terms of code compliance was flawed. I’d love to have them stay here.  Maybe we can get it right the third time - that the third time will be the charm.”

Mills said the resort is moving ahead with hiring a planner, which he hopes to be able to announce in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re very close. I think getting a planner will help tremendously. There are several major projects - three of them hotels - being considered.  We’re growing so much, we need guidance from a professional.”

Stormwater management has been a gnawing problem in Rehoboth for many years. Significant rain events have often led to pollution advisories for ocean waters along the beaches where stormwater outfalls for the city are located. Stormwater flowing into the city’s freshwater lakes - including Silver and Gerar - has also caused silting and pollution problems.

Always a nuts and bolts infrastructure guy, Mills said the city’s stormwater management system still needs a lot of work. “In  our Aug. 9 meeting, there will be a big agenda segment devoted to stormwater management and lake issues,” he said.

Sanitary wastewater stats

Meanwhile, Kevin Williams, Rehoboth’s public works director, said sanitary wastewater flow this summer is, typically, strong. Sanitary wastewater and associated fresh water usage often give a sense of how much activity there is in the city throughout the year.  Dewey Beach and surrounding areas also make contributions to Rehoboth’s wastewater treatment system. “We’ve been tracking daily flow through our treatment system forever.” 

Given all of the restrictions due to the coronavirus, he said he was somewhat surprised that last year’s flows were not off by much. “We were down a little in April, May and June but last summer in July and August flows were typical for a summer season. We figured flows would be down and with that revenues, too. But we tracked it all closely and that wasn’t the case.  Even in March and April there were people living here who had come out of the cities. Just judging anecdotally, by driving around, I saw lots of cars in driveways in areas - like along Henlopen Avenue - where I wouldn’t normally expect to see them.  Of course this year it’s very busy.  Traffic in town is crazy as always.” 

Williams gave data further illustrating the fact that more people were living in Rehoboth during the offseason during the pandemic - whether for work or because they didn’t travel elsewhere.  In November 2019, before the pandemic hit, the city’s treatment plant processed 25.4 million gallons of wastewater.  In 2020, that November number jumped to 34.08 mllion gallons. The trend continued:  22.78 and 21.54 million gallons processed in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively, compared to 34.7 and 30.28 million gallons processed in December 2020 and January 2021. Those are in the range of 50 percent increases for those down months.

Other notable wastewater statistics provided by Williams: on Memorial Day weekend in 2019, the Rehoboth treatment plant processed an average of 2.07 millions gallons of wastewater for the holiday’s three-day period. In 2020, in the height of the pandemic’s mayhem, the daily average for that holiday weekend plummeted to 1.01 million gallons. This year, and despite Memorial Day weekend being almost a complete rainout, the daily average jumped back up to 1.89 million gallons processed.

By this year’s Fourth of July weekend, the daily average of 2.5 million gallons eclipsed the prepandemic 2.4 million gallons per day average in 2019. Williams said that in 2020, the Fourth of July weekend daily average rebounded to1.89 million gallons compared to the Memorial Day 2020 bottom-out average of 1.01 million gallons.  “I guess by then people had had enough of the restrictions.” 

Finally, in a universe that tends toward balance, and despite the pandemic, the yearly totals for 2019 and 2020 are remarkably close: 419.05 million gallons in 2019 and 416.55 million gallons in 2020. Just when you were questioning the statistical value of every one of those flushes . . .     


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter