Public health infrastructure must be No. 1
This coronavirus problem will eventually pass, but not so the need for us to strengthen our public health infrastructure so we are responsibly handling our wastewater, maintaining and improving our drinking water resources, and taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the air we are breathing is clean.
Our personal immunities can’t be strong in the face of threats like coronavirus if our individual health is compromised by breathing dirty air and drinking water polluted with nutrients and pathogens as a result of improperly treated wastewater.
This is one of the most important functions of government, which has a fundamental responsibility for the general security of the citizenry. While the federal government is heavily involved in coronavirus mitigation, state government – much closer to the people, especially in Delaware – must play the strongest role in public health.
Government initiatives can encourage people to make better individual choices about their individual health, but the greatest amount of government resources should be directed toward public health-related infrastructure projects that can help protect the overall health of the population and put us in the best position to survive pandemics such as coronavirus.
Rehoboth Beach has invested heavily in cleaning our Inland Bays by shipping its treated wastewater more than a mile offshore via ocean outfall. That treated wastewater must be monitored vigorously and constantly to ensure its quality is high enough to avoid polluting the ocean environment.
Meanwhile, Lewes and Milton continue to discharge treated wastewater in Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River. Recent problems in Lewes show how that system can break down despite best intentions. The same could happen in Milton.
Both should be making plans to get their effluent out of the waterways. For Milton, and even Lewes, piggybacking with Artesian, and its lagoon and spray-irrigation system might offer a more environmentally friendly solution for treated wastewater disposal.
At the state level, we will all be watching the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for signals that it intends to doggedly protect the health of our environment and build the public’s confidence in this vitally important agency.