in Green Acres community
Department of Special Services is about to launch its
long-percolating program to divert rain water from the sanitary
sewer network with a pilot project in Green Acres.
The 377 homes in the Brandywine Hundred community will be
inspected for sump pumps and downspouts illegally connected to
the sewer. Homeowners will be required to disconnect them and
discharge the water onto the ground around the house. They will
be reimbursed for all or part of the cost of doing so and
advised where to locate the discharge so that it won't cause or
acerbate any drainage problem.
A plan presented to a County Council committee said the pilot
would begin during March. County officials have been considering
how to proceed for more than a year.
After receiving strong criticism at the committee meeting on
Mar. 1 from some Council members who objected to providing
reimbursement, Nicole Majeski, deputy chief administrative
officer, told Delaforum that she and Jonathan Husband, who is
directing the program for the department, will confer with
County Executive Paul Clark before deciding whether or not to
modify the plan for the pilot project.
As it stands now, that plan calls for county inspectors to visit
each house to determine if there are any illegal connections. If
disconnection is required, the homeowner will be given “a
reasonable amount of time” for that to be done. Upon completion
of the work, there will be a re-inspection and, if the result is
satisfactory, the homeowner, after presenting receipts, will be
reimbursed for the actual cost incurred.
be capped at $500 for each of one or two sump pumps and $50 for
one downspout disconnected.
Husband said the
anticipated $5 million cost of the hundred-wide disconnection
project will come from the money raised by the sale of long-term
bonds being used to finance compliance with a federal
Environmental Protection Agency mandate to eliminate by 2018
all discharges of untreated sewage into the Delaware River. With
the introduction of what is termed 'clearwater' into the
sanitary sewer network during a heavy rain, more effluent
is received than there is capacity at the Wilmington sewage
treatment plant the county also uses to process it.
spending the $5 million as a preferred alternative to upwards of
$100 million it would cost to expand the treatment plant or to
pay a federal fine for not complying with the mandate.
Street said there is an "issue of fairness" in subsidizing
compliance with a long-standing law by residents of affluent
Brandywine Hundred while county government appears oblivious to
flooding problems in such places as the Route 9 corridor between
Wilmington and New Castle. "It's another case of the 'haves'
getting while the 'have nots' don't," he said.
"There are a lot
better places we could put that money," George Smiley said.
suggested that, instead of being subsidized, homeowners be
assessed a surcharge on their annual sewer bill for not
disconnecting. Husband replied that the goal is to eliminate
clearwater from the sewer system so that processing capacity
does not have to be increased.
A surcharge, he explained would not accomplish that.
He added that the
purpose of the pilot program is to determine the extent of the
problem of illegal connections more precisely than the previous
general estimate of 15% of Brandywine Hundred properties.
He said Green Acres is sufficiently large enough to provide a
representative sample of the entire hundred. "We really don't
know what we'll find," he added.
Husband also tended
to downplay the actual cost that might be required. He said a
reasonably adept do-it-yourself advocate could do it with "$20
worth of parts from Home Depot and an hour and a half worth of
work." Any licensed plumber would be able to do the job easily,
he added, but said the county inspectors will not recommend
anyone or any firm.
that, at this stage, participation in the project will be
voluntary in the sense that an inspector cannot gain access to
the house without the owner's or occupant's consent. Literature
prepared to be provided to residents, however, implies that the
matter would not be dropped if that happens. It says that a
refusal will trigger direct contact by a county official
"to discuss what procedure New Castle County must follow to gain
Emphasis at this
point, he said, will be on cooperation on the grounds that the
disconnection project will be beneficial to county residents and
taxpayers. "We thought it would be better to ease into this
project," he said.