The Delaware Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities, or CWI, will help provide clean public drinking water and upgraded wastewater treatment for the state’s low-income, underserved communities. The Initiative is supported by a $50 million investment, the Clean Water Trust, created by the Clean Water for Delaware Act.
All Delawareans deserve clean water. The Clean Water for Delaware Act and our new Clean Water Trust will help us deliver on that promise.
— Gov. John Carney
Proposed by Governor John Carney, the Initiative is administered by DNREC, for the Clean Water Trust Oversight Committee, to protect public health and minimize environmental hazards and risk for all Delawareans.
DNREC and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) are partners in the Initiative. They work with the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council (WIAC) to manage the Delaware Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and oversee the planning, construction, repair, renovation or expansion of drinking water and wastewater facilities.
The General Assembly established a Clean Water Trust through the Clean Water for Delaware Act to ensure an environmental return on investment through management of financial resources available for drinking water, wastewater, drainage, stormwater, and other eligible clean water projects. The trust is funded from the state’s water-related revolving funds and funding related to Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) projects undertaken by the Kent, New Castle and Sussex County Conservation Districts.
The ACT also establishes the Clean Water Trust Oversight Committee to oversee the Delaware Clean Water Trust and work to coordinate state programs that impact the quality of the State’s water resources.
The Oversight Committee held three public information sessions in January and February 2022 to gather input on a draft Strategic Plan Framework for the trust. They asked Delaware residents and businesses how the trust should support water quality improvements with historic dedicated funding through the Delaware Clean Water Act.
A strategic plan to address the wastewater and drinking water needs of low-income and underserved communities in Delaware is important.
These communities -– often low-income, minority and indigenous communities –- with demonstrated public health and clean water challenges have lacked technical or financial capacity to address them.
DNREC staff began working toward a comprehensive statewide Clean Water Initiative in 2018. In 2019, the effort expanded to include DHSS and the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA). This cross-agency, collaborative workgroup met regularly and gathered information on resources, documentation, and expertise from around state government to develop ideas for the CWI.
Some low-income communities have unmet wastewater and drinking water needs. They may lack the managerial, technical, or financial resources to address these needs. This experience can be due to low-income levels, geographic isolation, or difficulty attracting septic system operators.
“Low-income communities” can be defined as those in which at least 51% of households have incomes at or below the federal low-income limit. That limit is 80% of the median family income for the county.
The state has developed a list of communities in need using this definition and information from partners including funders, social services agencies, and local governments.
The Clean Water Initiative will work with partners and collaborate with other initiatives with similar missions. Partners may include non-profit organizations, state funding agencies, motivated manufactured home park (MHP) owners, homeowners’ associations, federal funding agencies, private utility providers, counties, and municipalities.
CWI will leverage many opportunities to communicate its goals and gather public input. These opportunities include community meetings and workshops, public notices, news releases and marketing materials, etc.
To start, the partners will identify projects on the project priority list and intended use plan of the Delaware Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund that meet the criteria of the Clean Water Initiative. As the priority list and plan are updated, projects will be screened for CWI funding opportunities.
The first pilot project will be Donovan Smith Mobile Home Park (MPH), LLC, which has been cited by DNREC with notices of violations for unsanitary conditions from its failing septic system that posed a threat to residents’ public health and safety. The project will make it possible for the Lewes Board of Public Works to connect the Donovan Smith Manufactured Home Community into the town’s central sewer system, and provide an enhanced drinking water system for the community.
There is a short list of 16 more communities in need. It is based on the DSHA “Strong Communities” and mobile home park target area information.
The long-term strategy will be developed using lessons learned from the pilot projects. The partners will further develop the guidance and application process. The team will hold workshops with stakeholders and potential partners.
Future project planning will include public solicitation along with the established project priority list (PPL) and intended use plan (IUP) process of the Delaware Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund.