Selbyville asks for ‘yes’ votes on water referendum

Selbyville is in the homestretch for building a new water treatment system. But the Town needs the public’s help one more time to get the job done.

The Town must go to public referendum to secure $500,000 in what is essentially free money from the Delaware Drinking Water Revolving Fund. The vote will be held June 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Town Hall.

On paper, the funding is a loan with a 0-percent interest rate and 100 percent principal forgiveness upon completion of the project. Once the building is finished this spring, Selbyville won’t have to repay a time.

The referendum is a familiar process, as Selbyville residents previously approved similar loans in 2013 and 2011 to address the ongoing water issues. Nobody voted against the measures in those votes.

Town code requires public approval for Selbyville to accept loans and issue general-obligation bonds.

In the special election, residents will be asked to vote “for” or “against” the proposed borrowing.

“It is imperative everyone realizes this is free money,” said Town Manager Stacey Long. “There’s no reason to vote ‘no’ for it.”

After years of gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) leaking into its groundwater, Selbyville dug new wells using the 2011 funds. But MTBE contaminants appeared again, so the Town secured the 2013 funds to build the filtration plant, currently being raised behind Town Hall.

The plant should be finished in May or June. Once the project is completed, Selbyville can turn three wells back on and have five good wells.

“I think you’re going to see a big difference in the quality of water in town,” said Councilman Rick Duncan Sr.

The additional funding is an extension of the $2,526,300 loan from 2013, which built most of the new plant. But more money is needed to finish the job.

“This thing is a necessity. We have to finish to have the other $2.5 million forgiven,” said Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr.

The MTBE filtration consists of two simple air-stripping towers, around 30 feet tall, behind the existing water plant. Within the columns, water flows downward, while air is pumped upward. MTBE is a volatile organic compound that evaporates when it touches air.

The Drinking Water Revolving Fund program is administrated by Delaware Department of Health & Social Services.