Plan to connect Donovan Smith community to Lewes sewer system moves forward

Conditional approval secured
September 19, 2021

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced Sept. 14 that a plan to connect the Donovan Smith Mobile Home Park to the Lewes Board of Public Works sewer system is moving forward.

Following months of negotiations, DNREC officials said a conditional approval has been secured by the park owner. The community owner’s lender had to sign off on the financing arrangement in order for the state-funded loan to cover the connection to proceed, officials said.

“There are a number of manufactured home communities in our state – especially downstate – with longtime septic issues where putting the cost of a sewer connection on the residents would be a tremendous financial burden. Finding a way to mandate the sewer connection without burdening the residents or possibly bankrupting the park – and leaving the residents without anywhere to live – is the tightrope we must walk, and which the state financing supported by Gov. Carney is making possible,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “We are working to make a difference in the lives of these residents and in the environment, one step at a time.”

The mobile home park was also issued its second notice of violation Sept. 13, officials said. It was issued after a compliance inspection and two environmental complaint investigations found multiple violations associated with several small onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems within the community that were not previously addressed in a July notice of violation. One problem involved a collapsing septic tank with wastewater overflowing and ponding on the grounds, with no barrier or fencing preventing human or pet contact with untreated wastewater, a significant public health hazard, officials said.

This second violation cites Donovan Smith MHP for delays, as well as additional violations that have occurred since July. Although Donovan Smith MHP has since initiated system pump-outs and submitted a preliminary corrective action plan, officials said, this second violation requires additional interim corrective actions. The DNREC enforcement measure also calls for amendments to the corrective action plan to address additional violations, monthly communication with the community residents on the status of corrective actions, and more rigorous inspection and reporting to mitigate additional environmental and public health concerns until the sewer connection is achieved.

The first violation documented ongoing noncompliance by Donovan Smith MHP and established deadlines for the park to correct the problem and move forward on the sewer connection with financing from the Clean Water Initiative. Although DNREC received updates from Donovan Smith MHP concerning interim corrective actions taken, officials said, initiation of the required system pump-outs and submission of a corrective action plan did not occur within the time frames established in the July violation. 

Donovan Smith MHP was chosen as a pilot project for Delaware’s Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities – a program run by DNREC, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, and the Delaware State Housing Authority to develop a priority list for underserved communities in the state that have longtime water and wastewater issues. The initiative aims to end water pollution at the mobile home site by moving the community from septic systems to the Lewes central sewer system. The Clean Water Initiative will use the Donovan Smith pilot program to institute water and wastewater improvements in other similar communities, officials said.

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