Selbyville receives $1.4 million in water funding for wells

Selbyville is only a few signatures away from state funding that will revamp the town’s water supply. Town officials met this week with Delaware Division of Public Health officials to sign the last of papers that would grant them $1.4 million from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program to build two new wells, on Cemetery Road and Railroad Avenue.

In November of 2009, one of Selbyville’s wells was taken offline when it showed high levels of MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), a gasoline additive, at 12.9 parts per billion. A second well began showing signs of increased MTBE, and it seemed to be only a matter of time until the third and last well – now bearing the brunt of Selbyville’s water demand – would become affected, as well.

The State of Delaware has aimed to be proactive in establishing a maximum MTBE level of 10 ppb, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set no standard for the chemical, which could cause health problems.

Selbyville citizens voted unanimously in a referendum in July of 2011 to approve the loan. The loan terms equate the funding to grant money. The interest rate on the loan is zero percent, and the whole loan principal will be forgiven upon successful completion of the project.

“We’re looking to help communities build vital infrastructures in drinking water. Drinking water is a core public health function in this state,” said Thom May of the Division of Public Health.

Bob Dickerson, Selbyville town administrator, expressed gratitude on behalf of the Town of Selbyville to state legislators, who he said were “instrumental” in assisting with state agencies.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have the state agencies work with us so well, and I don’t know what we would’ve done,” he said. “It would’ve been a tremendous burden on the Town to do this, and that’s hard to plan for … when you have something invade your resources.”

Dickerson also lauded the EPA supporting, through grant money, infrastructure projects that small towns and communities could not easily get done on their own tax base.

“We couldn’t have the growth that we have had in the past, and could potentially have in the future, without support of long-term financing and infrastructure projects.

“This project only gets us back to the status quo,” Dickerson continued. “It’s not like we’re building this for future demand. That will be a whole other deal,” he said of the possibility for development to increase. “This is an emergency situation. We had to do something.”

“We’ve very happy that we can service the Town of Selbyville,” said May. “Our state revolving fund had the ability to respond quickly with important and critical funding for this project so that the implementation of the long-term solution can start now, rather than years down the road.”

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program will issue 10 grants to Delaware municipalities this year. With their grant, Selbyville’s two new wells will serve approximately 1,500 users in and around the town, including both households and businesses. To prevent future surprises, one well will always be working, and the other will serve as backup.

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is still investigating contaminations in the aquifer, including the source and treatment of the chemicals, Dickerson said.

Town Engineer Erik Retzlaff of Davis, Bowen and Friedel Inc., estimated that the Town will seek construction bids at the end of March, begin construction by the end of May and finish the project by fall. The project should move faster with two bid packages, one for the water pipeline and one for the well and electric.

Furthermore, based on nearby test wells, there may be less iron in the new water source. Removing iron is an expensive treatment process, so less iron treatment could help the town save money.

“We’re glad that we can help the community, and we’re looking forward to the completion of this project and any opportunities in the future that can help the community,” said May.