Blades residents receiving bottled water; elementary school to reopen Monday

A 5,000-gallon tanker with potable water stands ready, pending results of sample testing.

BLADES – Free drinking water is currently being supplied to town of Blades residents after tests revealed the presence of a chemical believed to cause health issues after long-term exposure.

At right, Shawn Garvin, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control secretary, speaks with Sussex County Council president Michael Vincent at the Blades Fire Hall.

In sampling done by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the town’s three municipal wells were found to have concentrations of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) above the human health advisory level of 70 parts-per-trillion.

State Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford, provided an update in his 39th District e-newsletter Friday, Feb. 9. Rep. Short represents the Blades area in Delaware’s House of Representatives.

Rep. Short announced that Gov. John Carney on Friday, Feb. 9 signed an executive order authorizing the Delaware National Guard to distribute water to affected Blades’ residents.

The Delaware National Guard has provided two, 400-gallon portable water tanks and coordinated troops to ensure water distribution operations out of the Blades Fire Hall.

Additionally, a 5,000-gallon potable water tanker is prepared and available for follow-up support. Water from these bulk tanks is expected to begin flowing 7 p.m. Sunday morning, pending sample test results taken by the Department of Public Health.

The town of Blades website states the National Guard is assisting with distribution at the Blades Fire Hall, located at 200 East Fifth Street, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the remainder of this week and next week, perhaps longer, until a temporary filtration system can be installed.

Blades’ municipal water is considered safe for use by residents for bathing and laundry.

“We’re going to work with town officials to bring whatever state resources are available to remediate this situation,” said Rep. Short.  “I appreciate the fast response by state officials to make drinking and cooking water available to local families.”

Town of Blades Mayor David Ruff checks out one of water tanks that will provide water to residents for drinking and cooking.

DNREC officials say they conducted the sampling of the wells at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “given their proximity to potential sources of PFCs from historical industrial processes in the area.”

One permanent solution to the contamination issue encompasses installation of a granulated activated carbon (known as GAC) filtration system.

The Delaware Division of Public Health says PFCs are not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but that long-term exposure to perfluorooctanoicacid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) can affect pregnant women and infants, cause cancer, and impact the liver and immune system.

Delaware Army National Guard members Specialist Maryanne Hicks and Specialist Christopher Johnson load cases of water during a pickup Sunday. In background is Staff Sgt. Emanuel Hodge. All three are members of the Delaware Army National Guard 262nd Maintenance Company in Dagsboro.

According to information from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), PFCs are a large group of widely applied manufactured compounds used to make everyday products.  “PFCs may be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make sofas and carpets resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof, and may also be used in some food packaging, as well as in some firefighting materials.  Because they help reduce friction, they are also used in a variety of other industries, including aerospace, automotive, building and construction, and electronics.”

The Seaford School District, via its district website, announced that Blades Elementary School – closed to students Friday, Feb. 9 – is scheduled to reopen Monday, Feb. 12.

The school district received bottled drinking water that will be provided to students and staff and has made arrangements to alter food menus to eliminate the use of tap water in food preparation. Despite recommendations that hand-washing with the water is not a concern, the district has taken precautionary action to provide hand-sanitizer for student use as an alternative.

These precautions will remain in effect until the town water is determined to be safe for consumption, according to the school district website.

Sgt. John Urell, front, and Staff Sgt. Emanuel Hodge, members of the Delaware Army National Guard 262nd Maintenance Company based in Dagsboro, check the list during a pickup of bottled water Sunday morning at the Blades Fire Hall.

Public Information Meeting

A public meeting regarding the town of Blades drinking water will be held Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Blades Fire Hall banquet hall, 200 East Fifth Street.

The meeting will be held conjunction with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Division of Public Health and the town of Blades. It will provide updated information to Blades residents about the town’s interim drinking and cooking water while DNREC and DPH investigate the elevated level of PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) in the town’s drinking wells.

The meeting will also address concerns of nearby residents outside Blades’ town limits who get their water from private wells.

For more information, contact Blades Town Administrator Vikki Prettyman at 629-7366 or email

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