Lewes BPW should study rapid infiltration basins

September 22, 2023

The escalating sewage effluent of Lewes is searching for a new discharge plan after undisclosed cultural resources were discovered during a DNREC environmental study on a proposed shared site near Sussex County’s Wolfe Neck facility.

Rampant new home construction, continued annexation and escalating population growth within the Lewes Board of Public Works sewage district forces BPW officials to reconsider aggressive alternatives for disposal of increasing volumes of customers’ sewage. The Lewes wastewater treatment plant is in a tidal wetland, discharging effluent into the canal, flowing out to Lewes Beach for dilution; as the volume dramatically increased over the years, this process is no longer a healthy and effective means of sewage disposal.

Several years ago, Rehoboth was forced by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove its sewage effluent from the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal because there was not sufficient dilution in Rehoboth Bay, thereby causing serious bacteria contamination. The EPA allowed continued discharge from the Lewes plant into a navigable waterway on an ebb tide for dilution in the bay along Lewes Beach. Rehoboth sought out three options: spray irrigation, rapid infiltration basin (land-based injection) and ocean outfall. Bids were offered by Artesian, Tidewater and ocean outfall contractors. Rehoboth ultimately chose ocean outfall, discharging its effluent about a mile off Rehoboth Avenue in about 60 feet of water. Rehoboth received a rapid infiltration basin bid from Artesian/Tidewater. Lewes BPW should seek out similar bids.

The advantage of a rapid infiltration basin is that our precious drinking water from the aquifer is not squandered by pumping it into the canal, bay or ocean, but recycled through land-based injection of properly treated effluent back into the ground where it came from to restore the aquifer. Every drop of our priceless aquifer water sent down the drain to the canal or the ocean contributes to sea-level rise and should be recycled.

Nick Carter


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