Selbyville Town Council discusses wastewater concerns

For months, Councilman Frank Smith III has made the same comment at Selbyville Town Council meetings: there’s a layer of scum on the wastewater at the Church Street pump station.

This month, Smith said that clearing the sludge requires four man-hours, seven days a week. There is concern that the scum could clog pipes leading to and from the pump station.

Now, the Town is determining how to fix the problem – and who should pay to do it. Bob Dickerson, town manager, has been in contact with Mountaire Inc., as the Town believes the company’s new wastewater treatment system is causing issues. Dickerson said the situation seems to fall outside of a previous cost-sharing agreement between the town and the poultry company, which has a processing facility in the town.

“We feel this is a cost that is over and above that which was addressed in our agreements,” Dickerson said. “We feel that it’s a total cost that should be borne by Mountaire.”

Dickerson and Mountaire representatives had scheduled a meeting to discuss these issues on Wednesday, Feb. 8, after Coastal Point press deadline, but Smith said correspondence with the poultry producer leads him to believe that they do not deny some responsibility in causing the problem.

Erik Retzlaff of the Selbyville Water Department said he believes Mountaire adds a chemical to treat their wastewater, but they may not have “fine-tuned” the dosage or aging process. Therefore, he theorized, it continues to react and form sludge as it flushes through pipes and mixes with residential lines.

Smith said this has occurred for six or seven months, and it could cause a backup if not maintained.

Selbyville town employees suggested installing a mechanism that would bubble the water and break up the sludge. The estimated cost would be $18,000, plus installation and parts.

The council expressed concern that the sludge would break apart but re-form later in the transmission line, pushing the problem from the pump station to the main water treatment center.

“This isn’t a permanent fix. It’s more cosmetic,” Retzlaff said. “The long-term solution is for [Mountaire] to get their chemicals right at their plant.”

In other Selbyville news:

• There will be no election in March, due to lack of candidates. Incumbents Richard Duncan Sr. and Jay Murray did register to run, and they will keep their seats.

• The town property tax rate will remain at $1.85 per $100 of assessed value, which the mayor estimated has not changed in 20 years. The council voted unanimously to keep the current rate (Richard Duncan Sr. was absent).

• Retzlaff reported that the town’s new wells are moving forward. All permits are in place to install the rural water main. Bid documents are being finalized, so the town many begin accepting bids in the next few weeks. Retzlaff said they hope to break ground by April.

• The council voted unanimously to approve the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation to grant Jeannie Mariner a conditional use for the Selbyville Farmers’ Market at the corner of Route 17 and Williams Street.

• Mayor Clifton Murray proclaimed March to be Art Month for Selbyville Youth. Jackie Bates accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Selbyville Community Club, which displays local schoolchildren’s art at the public library during the event.

“The town has been very generous in joining with us to bring attention to it,” Bates said. “Every year we can’t believe how the talent increases, and the schools just do fabulous things with teaching the children.”

“It’s amazing some of the stuff you see,” Murray agreed.

• The Selbyville Public Library sent a request for donations to fund the summer reading program. The Town usually supports the library and Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company through a percentage of building permit fees. Due to lack of recent building, the funds are less than they have been, and the town council will consider other funding for the library at a future town council meeting.

“We need to do something,” Murray said.

• The Town will again partner with the Delaware Mosquito Control section of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. If the town so requests, the state will spray for mosquitoes along Selbyville roads, at no charge.

• The Selbyville Police Department had 182 calls for service, issued 31 tickets, made nine arrests and collected $1,270 in fines during in December of 2011. Chief Scott Collins noted that the police training academy still has not been scheduled, but he expects it to begin in March or April. Selbyville currently has just five officers, down from seven regular positions and an eighth federally-funded position.

• The Water Department used 7.87 million gallons of water in January. The Town continues to flush dead-end lines, which prevents water from becoming stagnant. The Water Department has examined old fire hydrants in Tingle’s Trailer Park, some of which many need repair or replacement.

• The council unanimously approved an amendment to the water code, adding language that will prevent water contamination. The measure is part of the qualifications to accept a cross-connection control program.

• The next Selbyville Town Council meeting will be Monday, March 12, at 7 p.m.