Frankford discusses Mountaire and DNREC

The Town of Frankford may no longer have to appeal the decision of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) regarding a Mountaire well and the resulting loss of revenue for the Town.

In August, the Town filed a statement of appeal to the State’s Environmental Appeals Board, stating its decision was “improper” due to failure of notice, along with Delaware Code violations, including municipality approval of all well permits issued within town limits and permission from the municipality approving the activity of drilling the non-potable well within town limits.

At the town council’s monthly meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, Frankford Town Solicitor Chad Lingenfelder said the appeal may no longer happen, as the Town is working to come to settlement agreements with both Mountaire and DNREC.

“There are some legal issues regarding the viability of that permit being issued,” said Lingenfelder. “We’ve been in negotiations regarding that issue.”

Lingenfelder referenced a United States Department of Agriculture grant for a water feasibility study the Town hired AECOM to conduct.

“Part of the terms of settlement that we’re starting to iron out is that DNREC is going to match that grant, with what they call a Drinking Water Grant — $30,000 is going to come from DNREC.”

Lingenfelder said that DNREC wanted to see what it would take to bring Delaware Avenue into the Town’s water system, which is part of the feasibility study AECOM is currently working on. He noted that the Town is not locked into borrowing money from DNREC or USDA.

Part of the settlement, he said, would include the forgiveness of approximately $500,000 of outstanding loans the Town owes DNREC, once fluoride has been installed in its water plant and is operational for 90 days. Lingenfelder said that would allow the Town to get better loans in the future, because it would have no debt burden.

In the settlement, Lingenfelder said, there would be no deemed responsibility.

Resident Tony Presley asked if the residents of the town would be notified about the addition of fluoride to the water. Presley said there are studies that support not having fluorinated water.

Lingenfelder said the Town is one of the only municipalities that has government-backed loans that does not have fluoride in its water system, which is federally mandated. He added that everyone would be notified of the addition.

Councilman Marty Presley said the council’s goal is to get fluoride online in the plant without impacting anyone’s health.

“We’re trying to make sure, when we do it this time, it’s done right.”

Lingenfelder said there will be a determination by May 1 as to how fluoride may be added to the plant, and the whole feasibility study should be completed by July 1.

The Town is also in negotiations with Mountaire regarding the company providing the Town with compensation over a 10-year period to “alleviate the financial burden” of the company reducing its use of the Town’s water.

“They are two separate tracks, but in the end it would tie into the settlement agreement,” said Lingenfelder, noting that the council would have to vote on the agreements before they were signed.

“We did the numbers — without any sort of relief, Frankford would have one of the highest water rates not just in the state of Delaware but probably in the nation, with 883 people.”