(January 21, 2020 by Maddy Lauria, Delaware News Journal) Contaminated drinking water in Sussex County. Failing wastewater systems in Kent County. Flooded streets in South Wilmington. Those are just a few examples of the water issues faced by Delaware residents, some caused by natural influences, improper management, a lack of funding, or a combination.
After years of trying to pass legislation to create a steady funding stream to start chipping away at old, failing infrastructure and persistent pollution problems, Delaware politicians say they have finally found a way to get started.
It’s called the Clean Water for Delaware Act, and Gov. John Carney is ready to pour $50 million into a trust fund to get it rolling in the upcoming fiscal year.
“From the Brandywine Creek to the Inland Bays, we have special natural places in our state. Water is Delaware’s most basic and valuable resource, and we should protect that resource for future generations,” Carney said in a press release Tuesday.
“And we need to make sure that all Delaware families have access to clean drinking water. Delawareans deserve clean water. It’s as simple as that.”
The bill, which needs to be approved by the Legislature, aims to address drinking water, wastewater and drainage needs. That could include funding millions of dollars' worth of infrastructure-related projects or smaller-scale projects for individual communities, officials say.
The $50 million would come from surplus funds this year, officials said. That funding will be supported by existing state funds for drinking water and wastewater projects, as well a federal funding, for a total of more than $100 million in initial investment, officials said.
"Clean water is not a privilege. It's a human right," said House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, who sponsored the bill.
She noted that, if approved, legislators would "still have to find a continued revenue resource."
Previous incarnations of the bill and studies have suggested at least $500 million in water and wastewater projects are needed in the next five years. The bill requires the development of an annual “strategic planning process” and an oversight committee, officials said.
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin pointed to potential projects, like rehabilitation of the Delaware City wastewater treatment plant and sewer expansions in Kent County.
Contact environmental reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.
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