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South Bethany seeks solutions to end pollution in its canals

Delaware Public Media

The pollution in South Bethany’s dead end canals is well-known in the community. For over ten years, an overload of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, has created large, unappealing algal blooms. Especially after rain, brown water from the bottom of the canal will rise up along the bulkheads, bringing the foul smell of sewer gas to residential areas.


“You have bacteria in it and you don’t want to swim in it," said George Junkin, who chairs South Bethany’s canal water quality committee. He says the key to fixing the problem in their canals is increasing circulation, since the canals are so stagnant.


"We can improve circulation by connecting the dead ends of the canals with possibly a pump that would circulate the water from one dead end into another canal. That would cause it to go around in a circle and get into areas that get better tidal flushing,” said Junkin.

In 2008, the town had requested funds for a project to build a tidal pump. But the proposal was rejected by DNREC because the project cost 7 million dollars and the tidal pump would only benefit the South Bethany canals, not the Inland Bays. The canals do flow into Assawoman Bay and ultimately contribute to the pollution to the Inland Bays. The town also ran a pilot project in 2014 to test the effectiveness of using diffusers to increase circulation. Among its benefits, the diffusers were shown to decrease the likelihood of fish kills.

Town officials voted last week to use $10,000 from city funds to conduct a water quality study in its canals, hoping that DNREC will match their grant. The study would be used to build a system like the one Junkin described to encourage flushing in the canals.   

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