The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued a shellfish restriction in the area of the Lewes wastewater treatment plant.
WDEL and other media outlets reported that repairs were completed on Sunday, Dec. 29.
DNREC was notified on Dec. 18 about equipment malfunctions at the Lewes wastewater treatment plant. The malfunction could not be immediately repaired. That required the Lewes plant to discharge partially-treated wastewater.
Treatment bypass is ongoing as waste treatment plant operator Tidewater, Inc. works to implement interim corrective measures at the facility until the equipment can be replaced or repaired.
Lewes residents have been asked to reduce water use if possible in an effort to alleviate any unnecessary strain on the wastewater treatment system. Water conservation measures would include avoiding multiple partial loads of laundry or dishwashing, reducing shower time, and minimizing unnecessary flushing of toilets.
DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin has issued an emergency shellfish closure order for harvest areas downstream of the plant. Discharge from the WWTP flows into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal which predominantly flows to the Delaware Bay. The shellfish harvest closure affects the lower Delaware Bay, from the Mispillion River Inlet south to The Point at Cape Henlopen State Park, and Delaware jurisdictional waters east to the New Jersey State line in the Delaware Bay.
The effluent was screened to remove visible solids prior to discharge, while a hydrogen peroxide feed is being utilized for bacteria reduction.
DNREC has ordered the Lewes WWTP to perform enhanced monitoring of discharges as well as upstream and downstream monitoring of discharge in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. DNREC advised area residents and recreational users not to use the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal from one mile southeast of the Lewes plant through the Roosevelt Inlet.
The closure of shellfish harvest areas because of risk to public health will continue for a 21-day period after the bypass situation has ended, and the Lewes wastewater treatment plant effluent meets required discharge standards.
Rehoboth Bay was determined not to have been impacted by Lewes wastewater discharge after previous studies by DNREC concluded that the net flow of effluent from the Lewes WWTP plant enters Delaware Bay, but not the state’s Inland Bays. The temporary closure announced by DNREC applies only to clams, oysters and mussels – crabs, conch and fish species are not affected.
In assessing the ongoing bypass situation, DNREC’s Delaware Shellfish Program stated that “based on location of the event, commercial oyster beds will not be impacted,” and that the impact “will primarily affect recreational shellfish harvesters near the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier, and a very limited commercial harvest of dredge clams in an area where no landings of these clams have occurred for several years.”