Sussex County approves revised wastewater agreement with Rehoboth Beach

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County is taking a major step to help ensure the continued smooth flow of service for public wastewater customers in the years to come.

County council at its Aug. 8 meeting unanimously approved a renewed and expanded agreement with the City of Rehoboth Beach, in which the county will continue to pay the city to treat wastewater from portions of the county’s sewer system, as well as contribute to the construction of a new ocean outfall disposal system and various plant upgrades.

County council’s approval, which followed similar action from city commissioners on Aug. 7, was necessary for the project to proceed, as the county is a partner in the Rehoboth Beach effort that has been nearly 20 years in the making.

Construction of the outfall, part of the city’s overall $52.5 million wastewater project, is expected to begin this fall and be completed by spring 2018.

“This agreement with the city of Rehoboth Beach allows the county to diversify its wastewater options,” said Sussex County Engineer Hans M. Medlarz. “This is the result of more than a year’s worth of work on the part of the engineering staff, finance department and the city administration. I’m pleased that we’ve all been able to reach the finish line together.”

Under the revised agreement, the county will continue to pay the city for the cost of treating and disposing of wastewater from county customers, mostly in Dewey Beach, Henlopen Acres and the other unincorporated areas outside Rehoboth Beach, as well as contribute funding for the outfall’s construction and upgrades to the city’s wastewater plant.

The county has had a long-standing agreement with the cty for treatment of wastewater in the areas outside the city’s limits since 1983. Rehoboth Beach, in turn, will pay the county to treat the solids portion of its waste, known as biosolids, at a county facility. In total, Sussex County will contribute approximately $22 million toward the outfall project, with both the county and city exchanging annual fees, based on utilization, for their respective services.

The agreement is the next step in the Rehoboth Beach outfall project, and the latest in a series of joint ventures, some new and others long-standing, between the county and other municipalities as local governments take a long-term, team approach to planning for public wastewater treatment and disposal for decades to come.

Already the county has an agreement with the city of Seaford to treat wastewater in the Blades area, while the county and the Lewes Board of Public Works have in recent months worked to develop an interconnection between their two systems that will allow for more flexibility in managing wastewater flows and disposal, mostly during the slow-drying winter months.

The net result is a more robust and diversified public wastewater system within the county, in which wastewater is collected, treated and disposed of through a network of county and municipal systems that use a combination of land application and point-system discharge to serve more than 70,000 county wastewater customers.

Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said the end goal is to provide the best quality service to customers with an affordable and environmentally sound system. Outside of its partnerships with the various municipalities, Sussex County owns and operates four wastewater treatment plants – the Inland Bays, Piney Neck, South Costal and Wolfe Neck regional wastewater facilities.

“For the public, wastewater is not something that is usually at the top of their minds. But it’s critically important to every homeowner, business owner and guest who visits our community,” Mr. Lawson said. “We are extremely proud to be working with our partners in the cities of Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, and Seaford to take a more proactive, cooperative approach to wastewater planning. We believe through our combined efforts, our customers and our environment will benefit for years to come.”

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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