Rehoboth Cited for Sewer Discharge

Rehoboth Sewer Discharges

A citizen-whistleblower noticed and photographed “a blanket of dark brown floating solids, scum and sludge deposits” coming from the Rehoboth Beach sewer plant outfall last month and reported it to the Coast Guard in Lewes.

The report was passed on to state environmental officials, who concluded this week the city violated its wastewater discharge permit when the incident occurred on July 10.

City officials, in a statement Friday, described what happened as a “biological upset resulting in a malfunction of one of the two clarifiers at the plant. This upset lasted for a very short period of time.”

State environmental officials were notified of a problem at the treatment plant the following day. Later, the Coast Guard shared the information provided to them by the citizen.

State environmental officials found that filamentous bacteria was accumulating on clarifiers at the treatment plant because small mesh screens designed to keep it out weren’t in service.

If all was working properly, the bacteria, which help remove harmful bacteria in wastewater, would have done their job and settled to the bottom. The mixture is sometimes called activated sludge. The filamentous bacteria can be an important part of the treatment process unless they multiply and dominate the activated sludge mixture, which is what happened in Rehoboth last month, according to state officials.

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