Rehoboth stormwater pumps to be replaced soon

New employees, other infrastructure issues keeping new public works director busy
September 25, 2018

Story Location:
The Boardwalk, Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Not in time for the 2018 summer season, but before a major storm flushes it out naturally, the Rehoboth Avenue stormwater pumping system is set to get new pumps.

Rehoboth Public Works Director Kevin Williams said Sept. 19 the Rehoboth Avenue stormwater pump vault, situated between the Bandstand and the Boardwalk, will be open Tuesday, Sept. 25, for its cleaning, now on a bi-monthly schedule. At that time, he said, the vault will be prepared for the new pumps, which means cleaning lines and testing electric capabilities.

As long as the weather cooperates, Williams said the new pumps will be installed the following week, Tuesday, Oct. 2.

During a commissioners workshop July 9, Williams said the pumping system, designed to pump the first inch of stormwater to the wastewater plant for treatment, hadn’t worked for up to two years.

Shortly after that, during a cleaning of stormwater drains July 18, Williams said the pumps failed because sealants on the pumps are broken, allowing the interior of the pumps to get wet.

The broken pumps were discovered after the city was forced to examine the system because a state-mandated stormwater report by international engineering firm GHD showed after a heavy rainfall, stormwater pipes in parts of the city contain extremely high levels of enterococcus bacteria.

Study data showed in the six hours immediately following six major storms during the study period, pipe water in the city’s five stormwater outfalls from Grenoble Place south to Delaware Avenue averaged nearly 2,000 colony-forming units of enterococcus bacteria per 100 milliliters. The recommended level of colony-forming units is zero to 60. The state issues a swim advisory when the number of units is above 104.

As of press deadline Sept. 20, since the July meeting, the state has conducted 20 tests at the Rehoboth Avenue stormwater outfall and none has exceeded the 104 colony-forming units threshold. Four of the tests show levels of 50 colony-forming units or higher, but no test was higher than 84 colony-forming units. Half of the tests – 10 – show colony-forming units of 10 or fewer.

Williams said the new pumps, which cost $2,000 apiece, weren’t installed immediately because it took weeks to have them delivered, and by the time they were, the city decided to wait until after Labor Day. The Bandstand area will have to be closed to traffic for the better part of a day, he said.

Williams said an in-house crew will install the new pumps. He said the system, which moves the most contaminated liquid and small trash items into the wastewater system, would continue to operate as it had been operating.

New water fountains on Boardwalk, new public works employees

From new employees to new water fountains, the stormwater pumps aren’t the only new things Williams is dealing with.

Williams, who began working for the city in early summer, said 7 people in the water and street departments have left recently because of retirements. He said a lot of institutional knowledge left with those employees, but he said he is confident in the employees who remain and those recently hired, because there’s been regular training.

In addition to the new employees, Williams said the city is going to be evaluating the water fountains, foot showers and regular showers along the Boardwalk. He said the decade-old water sources are aging because of the harsh weather conditions along the Boardwalk.

One person who will be relieved the water fountains are being replaced is avid Boardwalk walker Patricia Leef. She said she walks the Boardwalk every day, sometimes twice, and she’s been trying for two years to get the water fountain near Grenoble Place fixed.

She said she could have let the situation drop, but she felt like she was being lied to, so she didn’t.

“Everybody thinks this is funny, but water is a commodity, and the city has been losing gallons and gallons of water,” said Leef.

Williams said he hasn’t been lying to Leef, and he isn’t aware of anyone else lying to her either. He said the problem with the water fountain at Grenoble is the drainage line is partially blocked, and when it’s being heavily used, the catch basin below doesn’t have time to drain properly.

Leef also said the water fountain at the south end of the Boardwalk, near Prospect Street, is broken.

Williams confirmed that water fountain was broken and will be replaced. He said it was turned off earlier this summer because he didn’t think the water fountain was used often, but had a change of mind after runners contacted him.

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