Water -- all types-- high on Fenwick agenda

The Fenwick Island Environmental Committee met on Wednesday, May 14 to discuss water, water and more water.

The group will continue with their plan to have a speaker come and talk important environmental issues. Last month, a representative from the Delaware Solid Waste Authority came to talk in depth about what can be recycled and the recycling process as a whole. And, in June, they will be hosting a representative from Artesian Water to come and talk about their town’s water.

“We want to know about it from the aquifer to the faucet. How they test it, what they put in it, the affect on the aquifers — and it’ll be open for questions. We’d loved to fill the place up,” explained Co-Chair Buzz Henifin.

On the subject of water, the Environmental Committee had discussed in recent months the idea of removing bottled water from town hall and thereby eliminating the expense of it from the budget, citing both its cost and redundancy.

“If we did away with bottled water, we could save $700 to 800 per year,” said Council Member and committee member Vicki Carmean. “Everyone in the town is on Artesian water, and the people in town hall drink bottled water.

“We had talked of putting a filter on, but we were not to do anything until the new budget came out. With the new budget,” she said, “two council members wanted to leave it in there. If people want to drink fancy water, they can bring their own. I plan to grumble about it at the next budget meeting. We are not talking $25 or $50, or even $100, we are talking about something that costs almost $1,000 per year. If something is wrong with Artesian’s water, then I want to know about it.”

Town Manager Tony Carson reminded the committee that the bottled water expense was a council issue and that council had the ability to change the vote on it.

“I represent the Environmental Committee and will let them know that this is unacceptable. If we need to have some type of filter or cooler [on present equipment] installed, then so be it,” answered Carmean.

Trees, flooding discussed after nor’easter

In other news, in light of the recent storm, Agnes DiPietrantonio, police department employee and grant writer for the recent tree triage program, shared some information she received from Dorothy Abbott from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

DiPietrantonio said that Fenwick Island residents may expect a 20 percent failure rate from the trees in general and might be looking at a lot of salt spray damage, and maybe losing a few more trees from the storm. She said the shallow roots from the newly planted trees might actually be beneficial in helping some of them recover, but the fact that they were subjected to so much salt water and rain is working against them.

Specific recommendations from Abbott included ample root watering — to saturate the roots with sufficient fresh water and then let the ground dry. She said that if salt is accumulating in the soil, it will leach out with the water molecules as gravity pulls it downward. She also recommended avoiding moisture on the leaves, as the atmosphere is rampant with disease and fungus. She warned not to spray the area, and to let the tree create its own healing sap — if the tree is healthy it will heal and create new bark tissue.

“We will take good care of them and, hopefully, they’ll recover,” said DiPietrantonio.

Also in light of the storm, the committee talked about the rampant flooding of many of Fenwick’s streets, generally from flooding of the inland bays. Carson mentioned that the town has had two engineering studies done in four years and they did not come up with a solution. He said he was shocked to learn that the general reaction was, “Well, this happens.’”

Carson mentioned that even if they raised the roads 2 inches, which was one of the remedies mentioned, it would not eliminate the problem.

“If you raise the roads, it won’t eliminate water from the bay. The water won’t sit on the road but it will go into people’s yards — it has to go somewhere.”

He also mentioned that the town doesn’t have the authority to make decisions about individual bulkheads. The committee talked about the raising of bulkheads being ineffective unless all bulkheads were raised.

“It’s not an easy solution,” said Carson.

Oyster farming booming, rain barrels a goal

Henifin gave a report about the area’s oyster farming program, saying that money for this year’s grant from Delaware State had been cut way back, but he noted that the results had generated enough interest to do more on Little Assawoman Bay because of its greatest diversity and selection.

“He’ll have 24 floats in sets of three: one will be a bare float, one will be a bare float with bare baskets, and one will be a bare float with two baskets of spat.”

The committee also talked of storm run-off from roofs and questioned the amount of acid going into the canals and lagoon. They will be putting a demonstration rain barrel out at town hall but are trying to find a inexpensive source for more barrels, should residents be interested in purchasing one for themselves.

“I’m leery of putting it out there without a source of cheap barrels,” said Henfiin.

The committee also decided it would be worth it to distribute flyers about ways to keep the lagoons and canals clean.

The next Environmental Committee meeting is set for the second Wednesday in June, at 2 p.m. at Town Hall.