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10/29/2008
Council approves $7 million sewer maintenance; rate increase likely - Community News

Wilmington, Del. —

The New Castle County Council voted 11-2 to approve a three-year, $7 million plan for preventive maintenance on its 1,600-mile sanitary sewer system.

The program will cost $1.45 million this year – money that will be pooled from the county’s $13.2 million sewer reserves. In each of the next two years, however, rate increases would be necessary to fund the rest of the program.

Officials estimate the average household will see their sewer bill jump $10 next year.

But the County says it has little choice. Environmental officials are requiring the County to adopt the comprehensive program to ensure it stays within compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and the county has already been fined $100,000 for system overflows.

The EPA-outlined program seeks to address long-term maintenance issues throughout the system: clearing large trunk lines of debris, removing tree roots that have grown through sewer lines, controlling corrosion and eliminating fats, oils and greases from the system.

The County also wants to enhance its closed-circuit television monitoring of the system, which allow it to view problems as they form.

The ultimate goal, according to Special Services General Manager Tracy Surles, is to meet the federal mandate of closing the last sewer outfall to the Delaware River by December 31, 2018.

Located near the Stoney Creek Pump Station in Claymont, the outfall acts as a release for the system when it becomes overburdened with rainwater during large storms. It’s there as an emergency, officials say, so pipes don’t burst under pressure, but at the end of the day, it’s also adversely affecting water quality in the area.

Councilmen Jea Street (D-Wilmington South) and David Tackett (D-Christiana) both voted against the plan because of the cost. The vote came on the same night when the Council put off plans to add to its public safety department because of the County’s budget problems.

 

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