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Science, Health, Tech

Center for Inland Bays pinpoints pollutants in Rehoboth's Love Creek

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Courtesy: Center for the Inland Bays
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A new report says Southern Delaware's Love Creek has high concentrations of bacteria and nitrogen -- and scientists think some of the pollution might stem from nearby septic systems.

The Center for the Inland Bays focused on Love Creek, which runs under the Route 24 bridge near Rehoboth, in the first of its "Your Creek" reports. The Center hopes to examine all the bays' major tributaries in coming years.

Science and restoration coordinator Marianne Walch says the reports are written for and with the help of community members.

"And then that will give them the information that they need to go forth and be good stewards and good advocates for the creek," Walch says.

This first report says Love Creek has had excessive levels of nitrogen since 2006, while phosphorous loads are well below allowable levels. Walch says the report also highlights the density of septic systems close to parts of the creek.

"Septic systems are more concentrated in Love Creek watershed than in some of the other areas of the Inland Bays," she says. "They can act as a major source of nitrogen and phosphorous to the creek."

The creek is also unswimmable and closed to fishing, and the Center found high concentrations of bacteria, including the kind associated with fecal matter. As development increases along the upper part of the creek, Walch says it's eating into wider forest buffers that have protected more species of aquatic vegetation in Love Creek.

"It's suggesting that the upper portions of Love Creek have much wider forested buffers than many other areas in the Inland Bays," she says. "We really think that's contributing to the health of the plant and bay grass communities."

In some places, she says houses aren't even visible to kayakers transiting the creek. But the buffers are the developers' responsibility -- the state and county don't have much regulatory power to enforce them. So with this report:

"We're trying to inform the communities that live around the creek about some of the more environmentally friendly ways these developments could occur," Walch says, "so they can put some pressure on development and on the state and the county to develop in a more environmentally responsible way that would leave some of those forested buffers."

Their next report, due out this spring, will focus on Derickson Creek.

State of Love Creek Report

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