planning $7 million
Coons administration lifted the veil on a massive multi-year
project to significantly upgrade the county's sanitary- and
storm-sewer network to comply with an environmental mandate to
eliminate overflows into the Delaware River by the end of 2018.
general manager of the Department of Special Services, the
county's public works agency, told County Council that the
executive in mid-October will bring forth proposed legislation
to authorize the program and revise the current sewer-fund
budget as the first step in a "pay as you go" plan to finance
She said her
department will use reserves in the sewer fund to pay the $1.4
million first-year cost expected to be incurred during this
fiscal year. It will then ask for an increase in sewer fees in
next year's and subsequent budget proposals.
financial officer Edward Milowicki told Delaforum that the
requested increase for fiscal 2010 will be in the range of 5% to
7%. That, he said, would raise the average sewer bill --
currently $240 -- between $12 and $16. There would be no changes
proposed in the discounted rates for senior citizens -- $50 for
those who are newly eligible and $39 for pervious beneficiaries,
Data provided to
Council indicated that the cost of the project will increase to
$2.6 million in fiscal 2010 and $3 million in fiscal 2011.
Christopher Coons did not seek an increase in sewer fees for
this fiscal year, but said during his annual budget message to
Council last spring that his administration would be coming back
later in the year with a proposal which would entail an
increase. Since then, he and other county officials have not
talked publicly about what he had in mind.
sewer fund reserve stood at
$14.3 million on July 1, the start of the current fiscal year.
As it now stands, the budget calls for using $5.3 million of
that money to cover an expected operating deficit between then
and June 30, 2009.
At a meeting of
Council's special services committee on Sept. 23 Surles revealed
that a 2003 federal-state environmental order to eliminate
overflows into the river has been revised to include not only
the 2018 deadline but also a $100,000 fine and a requirement
that county government also spend $100,000 on a 'supplemental
She said current
thinking regarding the supplemental project is to "create a
small wetland with an educational component" in Talley-Day Park
in Brandywine Hundred.
She noted that the
revised enforcement order was issued by the Delaware secretary
of natural resources and environmental control and not the
federal Environmental Protection Agency. She said putting
enforcement in local hands "recognized [that] we've been
proactive" in dealing with the overflow problem.
She did not say
when the revised order, not previously announced, was issued.
when stormwater floods the sanitary-sewer system beyond its
sewage-processing capacity. Since 2003, a discharge point at
Naamans Creek has been eliminated, leaving only one at Stoney
Core of the planned
project is what has been labeled in the environmental order as a
'capacity management operation maintenance program'.
Main component of
that is stepped-up preventive maintenance of sewer trunk lines.
There are about 400 miles of those pipes in the county's
Trunk lines are
pipes which convey sewage from subdivision collector systems to
larger pipes which take it to pump stations and eventually to
the sewage-treatment plant in northeast Wilmington.
The plan is to
target 3.2 miles this year, focusing on older subdivision
systems and targeting especially historical trouble spots. The
amount of work is to be increased to 7.5 miles in fiscal 2010
and 7.2 miles in 2011. Surles did not explain the rationale
behind that schedule.
herbicide will be used to rid the pipes of tree roots which
infiltrate through small openings in the joints which connect
sections of pipe and grow inside the pipes.
committee was told that roots removed mechanically grow back in
between six and 12 months and, like happens with any tree
pruning, the new growth is sturdier than the old. A chemical
application lasts up to three years and is more cost-effective.
There will be
increased use of closed-circuit television to inspect the
interior of the pipes. The department currently uses that
technology -- both in-house and by contracting for the service
-- to inspect between 20 miles and 25 miles of pipe annually.
There all will be
chemical treatment to reduce buildup of grease in the pipes
accompanied by an educational program to reduce or eliminate the
disposal of grease into the sewers by both residents and
Finally, there will
be expansion of a pilot program already underway to control
hydrogen sulfide-induced pipe corrosion chemically and by
aeration of the wastewater.