Wednesday, March 20, 2002

of sewers and crime
The City of Wilmington has a big problem. With big problems often come big pricetags - 120 million dollars over the next 19 years or so.

The problem - raw sewage mixes with rainwater run-off from streets and is supposed to enter into the City's wastewater treatment facility. But there's too much. And the system can't handle it when it rains.

The overflow ends up going into the Christina and Brandywine rivers.

From the News Journal report, the City appears to be working to comply with federal requirements. But, it's difficult to tell.

There's a bit of a side story to the whole process, and it involves a citizen based environmentalist group named Green Delaware. Their leader was caught stenciling:
"WARNING RAW SEWAGE" on a Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) that spews raw sewage into the Brandywine River whenever it rains.
He faces criminal charges for this "defacement" of government property. I don't know about you, but this is something that I would want to know if I was motoring past on a boat. And, according to him, the Clean Water Act requires such a warning to be in place. (I didn't dig through the text of the Act to confirm or deny his assertion.)

Subsequently, the group was asking the public to support them by joining in a protest in Wilmington on March 14th. I don't know how well their protest went, but I don't feel bad that they are trying to get someone to listen to them about this problem.

How serious is Wilmington's sewage problem? How serious is the problem with clean water in Delaware?

A 2000 report from the Sierra Club of Delaware (pdf) tells us that:
Many older cities were built with connected systems of storm water and sewage systems to handle runoff from major storm events. This situation persists in Wilmington, where even 0.1 inch of rain in a limited period can lead to raw sewage running into the Brandywine and Christina Rivers.
Friends of the Earth gave Delaware's compliance with the Clean Water Act a failing grade in 2000, citing the City of Wilmington's Sewage system as one of the problems.

Somehow, I suspect that the grade hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. The cost of clean water is expensive. But, it's a bill that needs to be paid.

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