Undertreated wastewater discharged into Delaware Bay
An equipment malfunction at a Lewes wastewater treatment plant has caused partially treated sewer water to be discharged into the Delaware Bay.
In response, the state has closed the shellfish harvest downstream from the facility’s point of discharge into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and asked Lewes residents to take measures to conserve water use.
According to a DNREC press release, the malfunction forced the facility’s operator, Tidewater Inc. to bypass stages of its wastewater treatment process beginning last Thursday night, Dec. 19. The situation is ongoing as the malfunctioning equipment is being replaced or repaired.
DNREC is advising recreationalists to not to use the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal from one mile southeast of the treatment plant out through the Roosevelt Inlet.
The shellfish closure applies to clams, oysters and mussels. It will be in effect for a 21-day period after the bypass situation has ended, and the treatment plant meets required discharge standards.
The state says it has ordered the facility to enhance its monitoring of the wastewater effluent. It says the sewer water continues to be screened to remove visible solids prior to discharge, and a hydrogen peroxide feed is being used to reduce bacteria.
Rehoboth Bay has reportedly not been affected.