Senator Tom Carper, Senator Chris Coons, and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Collin O'Mara joined USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton and other officials today to highlight funding for improvements to Millsboro's wastewater system. The improvements will help protect the health and safety of families, create local jobs and provide significant clean water benefits for Delaware's Inland Bays.
With the support of USDA and State funding, Millsboro is on track to help Delaware achieve the goal of the Inland Bays Pollution Control Strategy of eliminating point source discharges from wastewater treatment plants into the Bays.
"In these challenging economic times, many communities, like Millsboro, can't afford the needed safety upgrades to drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities," said Senator Carper. "Fortunately, today's announcement means residents of Millsboro and surrounding areas will have improved access to safe, reliable drinking water, and a wastewater treatment facility better able to meet the needs of a growing community and economy. Investment in these types of projects help protect the health of families up and down the First State, improve our environment, and expand communities' economic opportunities -- something I like to call a win-win-win."
"Investing in improvements to the Millsboro Wastewater Treatment Facility is an investment in the environment, our public health and the economy; and it's an investment that will have a positive impact on Delaware's Inland Bays for many years," Senator Coons said. "Improving infrastructure can be a financial hardship on local communities, so I am especially pleased that the state and federal governments are able to support such significant improvements to Millsboro's wastewater system. Getting here has been a journey, and this project is a terrific example of what can happen when everyone works together for the common good."
Approximately 3,400 homes and businesses are served by the Millsboro Wastewater Treatment Facility. Originally constructed in 1964, the facility was upgraded in 2009 with a state-of-the-art nutrient removal system that makes the discharged effluent near drinking water quality and ready for land-based application. Today, construction is nearly complete at the Millsboro Middle School where the treated wastewater effluent will be spray irrigated at the school's fields.
The next phase of the project will secure land approximately 5 miles west of Town for the construction of an aquifer recharge site to be completed by December 2013. The location is a sod farm that is currently irrigated with well water and the aquifer recharge will consist of a combination of spray irrigation and a Rapid Infiltration Basin System.
Including the wastewater treatment upgrade that was completed in 2009, USDA's total investment to the Town of Millsboro to improve the disposal of treated wastewater effluent is in the form of a grant in the amount of $4,287,959 and a low-interest loan in the amount of $14.5 million. "Managing infrastructure costs are some of the most difficult and most expensive challenges that rural communities face," said USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton. "USDA Rural Development for many years has been a partner in helping small towns overcome these obstacles. The project will help protect the environment for future generations to enjoy. This year, USDA is commemorating 150 years working with Americans to protect the land. At the same time, USDA is looking to the future. We know an economy built to last will rely on the health of our natural resources."
State funding for the upgrades to the Town's wastewater treatment systems since 2007 total approximately $14.7 million, including the state's most recent loan from the Delaware Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRLF) of $6.3 million, which includes $690,000 in loan principal forgiveness after the project has been completed. Delaware's CWSRLF investments are supported by the U.S. EPA capitalization grants and State of Delaware matching funds.
"Wastewater infrastructure projects like the improvements here in Millsboro are creating jobs, improving water quality and building stronger and healthier communities," said DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara. "By eliminating wastewater discharges into our precious Inland Bays, we help ensure that they are fishable and swimmable and improve Delaware's economic and environmental health today and for future generations."
As part of the land purchase, DNREC entered into an agreement with the Town of Millsboro to protect 154 acres of important wetland habitat through a conservation easement. The easement protects a unique Atlantic White Cedar forested wetland and a stream corridor. Scattered throughout the lower part of Delaware, Atlantic White Cedar wetlands support a rich diversity of plants and animals found nowhere else, but in these distinctive wetlands. The easement allows for a public trail and hunting access to be added at the town's discretion, providing opportunities to expand ecotourism and recreation that will support the local economy.
USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. From 2009-2011, the agency has provided more than $423 million to rural Delaware. USDA Rural Development funds more than 40 programs that support agriculture, business opportunities, home ownership, home repair, rental housing, public safety, health care, education, community facilities such as libraries, schools and day care centers, and energy-related projects. Additional information on rural programs is available by calling their office in Dover at (302) 857-3625 or by visiting www.rurdev.usda.gov/de.