Sussex County Council unanimously approved a renewed and expanded agreement with the city of Rehoboth Beach, in which the county will continue to pay the city to treat wastewater from portions of the county’s sewer system, as well as contribute to the construction of a new ocean outfall disposal system and various plant upgrades.
County Council’s approval, which followed similar action from city commissioners Aug. 7, was necessary for the project to proceed, as the county is a partner in the Rehoboth Beach effort that has been nearly 20 years in the making. Construction of the outfall, part of the city’s overall $52.5 million wastewater project, is expected to begin this fall and be completed by spring 2018.
Under the revised agreement, the county will continue to pay the city for the cost of treating and disposing of wastewater from county customers in Dewey Beach, Henlopen Acres and the other unincorporated areas outside Rehoboth Beach, as well as contribute funding for the outfall’s construction and upgrades to the city’s wastewater plant. The county has had a long-standing agreement with the city for treatment of wastewater in the areas outside the city’s limits since 1983. The city, in turn, will pay the county to treat the solids portion of its waste, known as biosolids, at a county facility. In total, Sussex County will contribute about $22 million toward the outfall project, with both the county and city exchanging annual fees, based on utilization, for their respective services.
The agreement is the next step in the Rehoboth Beach outfall project and the latest in a series of joint ventures, some new and others long-standing, between the county and other municipalities as local governments take a long-term, team approach to planning for public wastewater treatment and disposal for decades to come.
The county has an agreement with the city of Seaford to treat wastewater in the Blades area, while the county and the Lewes Board of Public Works have, in recent months, worked to develop an interconnection between their two systems that will allow for more flexibility in managing wastewater flows and disposal during the slow-drying winter months.
The net result is a more robust and diversified public wastewater system within the county, in which wastewater is collected, treated and disposed of through a network of county and municipal systems that use a combination of land application and point-system discharge to serve more than 70,000 county wastewater customers.
County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said the end goal is to provide the best quality service to customers with an affordable and environmentally sound system. Outside of its partnerships with the various municipalities, Sussex County owns and operates four wastewater treatment plants — the Inland Bays, Piney Neck, South Coastal and Wolfe Neck regional wastewater facilities.