Dagsboro residents leery despite clean water reports

Dagsboro residents facing a May 9 deadline for hook-up to the town’s water system — the end of the grace period for avoiding a $3,000 impact fee — raised questions about that deadline at the Jan. 24 council meeting.

As one resident pointed out, she’d purposefully waited to hook up after the town’s water system became contaminated by an industrial solvent (trichloroethylene, or TCE), back in mid-October. Long-term exposure to TCE can lead to liver or kidney damage, and the chemical is considered a possible carcinogen.

The Department of Public Health warned people not to drink the water, and eventually traced the contamination back to Millsboro’s municipal wells (which serve Dagsboro, as well as Millsboro). The Delaware National Guard brought in fresh drinking water, and Millsboro had treatment systems in place within a few weeks.

They managed to clear the excess TCE out of the system by late November. Officials in Millsboro, and at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), assured everyone those systems would remain in place indefinitely.

Although the town started out with a lease on the equipment, Millsboro Town Manager Faye Lingo said they’d gone ahead and purchased it. Testing continued to indicate elevated TCE, so carbon filtration had now become part of Millsboro’s standing water treatment system, Lingo pointed out.

DNREC Site Investigation and Remediation Branch (SIRB) Director Paul Will said the department had installed nearly 100 test wells and was getting a better picture of the “plume.”

“We’re chasing it south,” he said. Groundwater flow is from the south-southeast, so once SIRB defines the southern edge of the plume, they should be able to pinpoint the location of the original release. “Once we find it, we’ll have to come up with techniques to treat it,” Will pointed out.

Even until SIRB manages to eliminate the source of the pollution, Will said residents should feel more assured that they are receiving clean water if they are hooked into a public water system. “The town will continue to test their water — there’s no endpoint for that testing,” he added.

However, as one resident in attendance at the Jan. 24 meeting pointed out, there are still hundreds of people waiting to hook up. Even with perfect weather, and plumbers from every company in the area working side-by-side, he said he doubted everyone would make the May 9 deadline.

This led to calls for an extension, and council agreed to look into the possibility with the town’s financiers (the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Town officials need to clear any changes to the debt service structure with USDA representatives — until they receive approval for those changes, Mayor Wayne Baker suggested people should proceed as if that May 9 deadline was still in effect.

Residents need to use a town-certified plumber, and there’s a list at Town Hall, or residents can call 732-3777 for more information.