Rager: Frederica official gives update on town water


Pete Rager is the secretary for the town of Frederica.

At the Frederica Town Council meeting Feb. 7, during the open-floor session, two residents asked about the latest brown-water events, one from Waters Edge and the other from South Market Street. After a lengthy discussion, I was asked why we don’t share information more often on the town’s Facebook page and the Waters Edge Homeowners Association page, concerning the water-quality events. Monthly water/code reports are presented at the town meetings on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m., but we will try to do a better job getting information out.

Though we have had water-quality issues in the past, we did receive a few complaints about the presence of rust in the water. Tragically, we did have two working fires, one on Front Street on Jan. 20 that displaced two families and one on Hillside Avenue on Feb. 2. Such fires usually result in water-quality issues.

I must first stop and thank the Frederica Volunteer Fire Co. for its heroic actions, stopping both fires and rescuing one older lady from the Front Street fire with no serious injuries.

When the trucks roll and the hydrants are utilized, it causes a serious draw on our water system, pulling thousands of gallons in minutes, causing a shock and scaling the rust and deposits sitting in the water mains and hydrants. Once the system is shaken up, it unfortunately travels to every household that happens to be drawing water at that time. This is, by far, not the only reason for brown water but one that we have dealt with most recently.

The main reason that the Frederica Water Department and almost every other municipality in the United States has problems with brown water is old, cast-iron water mains. Whenever water sits in cast-iron pipes, there’s usually rust developing. The key is to not disturb it and/or remove the outdated cast-iron mains and replace them with PVC water mains. We try to keep the water-quality issues at bay by scheduling hydrant flushing and utilizing mounted low-pressure auto flushers but can only do so in the spring, summer and early fall due to freezing temperatures.
Back in the ’90s, the town received a grant to remove the outdated cast-iron mains and replace them with PVC pipe. We are finding that the construction company left some of the cast-iron pipes in the ground, most of them still charged. Whenever you have water in cast-iron pipes that is not moving as it should, the water quality suffers, again causing a buildup of sediment, resulting in brown water.

Mayor William Glanden, Town Council, town engineers at the Pennoni consulting firm, staff and especially our water operator Dustan Russum have had great success working with our legislators, the Office of Drinking Water, the state Drinking Water Revolving Fund and the Delaware Rural Water Association to obtain funding to locate and rectify our problem areas in the town.

We were awarded $700,000 in 2020-21 to replace the cast-iron mains left under Front Street and to install new hydrants and service laterals to the homes, along with new pits and meters. That project has been completed.

This March, we hope to put out for bids two more water main projects, removing and replacing cast-iron mains under part of Market Street at $102,000 and for Jackson Street at $510,000, along with a federally required program to identify and inventory any lead service lines at $102,000. Most of the funding for these projects is approved and will be covered by the revolving fund.

We have been working for the past three years and are all cautiously optimistic to be in the final stages of erecting a new water tower on the south side of town, off Frederica Road, giving us increased fire-suppression and redundancy there and to better serve the south side of town, the Waters Edge development and SpringHill Suites Frederica.

Our water is tested daily for chemical levels and tested every month by the state. There is a physical inspection of our facilities every two years. The Frederica Water Department has not had any violations or deficiencies under the current water operators.

The Water Department testing, as well as any other municipalities’ testing results, can be obtained at drinkingwater.dhss.delaware.gov.

In closing, I never intended to give you excuses or say that there isn’t a problem, but I take it personally when someone insinuates that the mayor and council aren’t addressing the water-quality issues, or any issues in the town for that matter.

I can tell you that we have been working hard for the citizens of the town and will continue to do the best we can for the town of Frederica.

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