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Shellfish harvesting in Delaware Bay to resume Aug. 14; wastewater release fixed

John Lee

After discharging undertreated wastewater into a part of the Delaware Bay, the Kent County wastewater treatment plant’s water quality levels are now back up to standard. 





The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control put a ban on shellfish harvesting in the Delaware Bay north of the Mispillion Inlet earlier this month because of possible health risks posed by the discharge.


The Kent County treatment facility has two basins that treat wastewater with oxygen. One of the basins had a hole in it, which affected the wastewater, said Andrew Jakubowitch, the public works director for Kent County.


“We had some exceedances in some nutrient levels and some suspended solids levels in bacteria that we monitor for the wastewater effluent,” Jakubowitch said.


The treatment plant started discharging undertreated wastewater into the Delaware Bay in the first week of July. Jakubowitch said he and his staff worked around the clock to fix the problem. 


“The bacteria levels at the mouth of the Murderkill River — there are no samples there of the bacteria we monitor for and the bacteria coming out of the plant is [now] at acceptable levels,” he said.

To fix it, the public works department put new diffusors in to better move the flow of oxygen and air.


It took about two weeks to repair the problem, but water quality levels are now compliant with federal standards, Jakubowitch said.


DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said the ban is just for recreational harvesting of oysters and clams while these shellfish filter the toxins from the water.


“Pollution that comes in — bacteria, viral, that comes into the water — they will filter them out, they will contain them. There’s a certain period of time where they need to process that,” Garvin said.


Recreational harvesting will resume August 14. The ban doesn’t affect legal harvest of crabs and conch.