New nonprofit wastewater utility begins operation in Bridgeville community

By Lynn R. Parks

Country Glen II, east of Bridgeville, is the first community in Delaware to benefit from a new alliance, Clean Water Solutions. The nonprofit wastewater utility will assume operation and maintenance of the communitys wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal system, which is currently operated by the Country Glen Homeowner Association.

Organizers have identified up to 80 unincorporated communities in Sussex County that, like Country Glen II, have their own onsite wastewater treatment systems and that they feel could benefit from having Clean Water Solutions step in. Sen. Tom Carper, who attended a recent ceremony at the community to announce the alliance, said that he believes that this could be the way of the future.

Im proud that Delaware is leading the way with this innovative solution that I think could serve as a model to solve similar problems in small, rural communities across the country, Carper said.

Clean Water Solutions is a partnership of three organizations. The Diamond State Sustainability Corporation, founded in 2015, is dedicated to environmental stewardship and infrastructure sustainability in low-income, unincorporated communities in Delaware. EDEN/Wellnet Delmarva works to engage the business community in finding solutions for sustainable living, and part of the mission of the Roanoke, Va.-based Southeast Rural Community Assistance Program is promoting affordable water and wastewater facilities in low-income communities.

D. C. Kuhns is director of Wellnet Delmarva. He said that in many small rural communities, homeowner associations are responsible for maintaining and operating onsite wastewater treatment systems, and association members are responsible for all the system costs. Problems arise when the systems require work that costs more than the membership fees can cover. Homeowner associations have to turn to banks or to the state for financial assistance, Kuhns said. But in some cases, the credit record of the community isnt such that it can qualify for a loan.

It is a big problem that has been plaguing the state for a long time, he said.

Country Glen II has a well-run wastewater system with good financial records, said Jean Holloway, manager for Delaware and eastern Maryland with the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Program. In fact, state records dont show any difficulties with the system, said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spokesman Michael Globetti.

But even there, members of the homeowner association board were growing tired of operating it.

They were ready for someone else to have the responsibility and burden, Holloway said. Clean Water Solutions will be able to help them by taking the burden of running the system off the homeowner association boards collective shoulders.

With that responsibility gone, the association can concentrate on the business of improving and maintaining the community without worrying about the septic-wastewater system. That means that they can concentrate on streets, street lights, community improvements and the like.

To help with the takeover of the Country Glen II system, Clean Water Systems obtained two grants totaling $55,000 from USDA Rural Development. Clean Water Systems applied in June for a permit from the Public Service Commission; the permitting process takes about four months.

The alliance is also applying for grants to help finance additional takeovers. It has selected six communities that collectively form its pilot project. By the end of this year, the alliance hopes to have moved into three communities. In addition to Country Glen II, they are eyeing Grants Way, a mobile home community east of Milton, and Morningside Village east of Bridgeville.

This is really quite an accomplishment, Kuhns said. We want to stand up on a hill and crow.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.