Delaware Public Media

A future with less pollution in the Inland Bays?

May 11, 2018

In less than a month, the City of Rehoboth Beach will start discharging treated wastewater through an outfall pipe into the Atlantic Ocean.

Delaware Center for the Inland Bays Executive Director Chris Bason says once Rehoboth stops discharging treated wastewater into the canal on June 1, the final major point source of discharge into Rehoboth Bay will be eliminated.

It will remove one-third of the phosphorous pollution load from Rehoboth Bay instantly and over 17,000 pounds of nitrogen that go into the water annually — based on discharge amounts documented by city and state permits.

“That’s going to be a benefit to water quality, fish populations, shellfish populations,” Bason said, “it’s going to help keep the bacteria levels lower in the bay. All the good things we like about the bay are going to benefit because of this.”

Long flushing times in the bay allow pollution to stay in the water for a long period of time and cause algae blooms and low oxygen concentrations.

“So it’s about the worst place you could put a wastewater discharge,” Bason said.

But the ocean, he said, can quickly flush and dilute pollution levels in the discharge to trivial levels, so nutrients won’t have the same effect on ocean health as it did in Rehoboth Bay.

In 1998, there were 13 original point sources that went into the Inland Bays. One smaller source is left, the former Vlasic Pickle Plant in Millsboro; but construction of a new deboning facility that was approved by the Sussex County Board of Adjustment Monday will remove that when poultry company Allen Harim land-applies its treated wastewater.

Bason says taking Rehoboth’s treated wastewater out will allow environmentalists to turn their heads to non-point source pollution that comes from agricultural runoff.

“That remains a huge problem for the Inland Bays, particularly for nitrogen,” Bason said. “So it really helps us focus on that remaining problem to help heal the bays.”