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10/24/2009
$312M county-wide sewer rehab project moving along - Community News

$312M county-wide sewer rehab project moving along
Gov. Printz phase set to begin in coming weeks


By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News
Posted Oct 24, 2009 @ 07:05 AM

Brandywine Hundred, Del. —

Believed by officials to be the largest locally funded capital project in Delaware history, New Castle County is forging ahead with plans to rehabilitate the Brandywine Hundred sanitary sewer system.

The $312 million project, which began in 2005, is roughly one-third complete, with a major component - the replacement of the Northern Delaware Interceptor beneath Gov. Printz Boulevard - set to begin in the coming weeks.

That piece of the project alone will cost the county $17.4 million, and calls for the replacement of more than two miles of underground piping between two important pump stations that help keep the entire system flowing.

The project was necessitated by enforcement action by both state environmental regulators. The federal Environmental Protection Agency also considered taking action, but deferred to the DNREC order already in place.

Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) said the county lucked out, because it could have been heavily penalized.

"The City of Baltimore was fined heavily...and our system is similar" in size, he said.

Built in the 1950s, the system is showing it's age. Collapsed pipes, cracked manhole columns and a host of other issues plaguing the system have allowed storm water to leak into the system, causing overflows.

In extreme rain events, two outfalls into the Delaware River were releasing sewage that couldn't be handled by the system. In accordance with a DNREC Secretary Order, one of those outfalls, near Naamans Creek, has already been closed. The second, near the Stony Creek Pump Station, must be sealed by 2018, the year the rehab is scheduled for completion.

Officials say the county is on the lookout for federal grant monies that could help subsidize some of the costs, but for the most part, taxpayers will foot the bill, meaning rate increases are possible.

"One of the things that triggered the investigation in the first place is that our sewer rates were so low," said Councilman John Cartier (D-Penny Hill).

The average homeowner paid about $240 for sewer service this year.

Council President Paul Clark said he's hopeful the county learned a lesson in Brandywine Hundred.

"Too often in government we will throw $300 million at a problem instead of a few dollars to prevent a problem," he said. "I hope we maintaining other areas of our sewer system so we don't get to this point again."

Sewer Rehab By the Numbers...
33 percent: Estimated amount of work completed in project.
$312 million: Total cost of the rehab project.
$46.6 million: Money spent through June 30, 2009 (including interceptor project).
48: Diameter, in inches, of the pipe being used to replace the Northern Delaware Interceptor.

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