Preventing Pollution at a Popular Park

by Jennie Saxe

A view from the Delaware coast

A view from the Delaware coast

I have fond memories of growing up in Delaware, and of the special places that dot the First State’s 2,491 square miles.  Cape Henlopen State Park stands out as one of those places, thanks to an unforgettable school camping trip where my classmates and I had the chance to explore the park and wade out into the Delaware Bay to get a close-up look at the diverse aquatic life just a few yards offshore.

Turns out I’m not the only one who enjoys Cape Henlopen State Park – I was amazed to learn that the park has about one million visitors each year. That’s more than the entire population of the state! I was also surprised to learn that over one mile of sewer lines at the park lead to a wastewater treatment plant that is almost a century old. Those old, cracked pipes let groundwater and stormwater enter, resulting in stress on the pumps at the treatment plant, and increasing the potential for failure.

EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program helped the Division of Parks and Recreation in Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control fund a sewer pipe lining project at the park, just one of several projects that will upgrade the park’s wastewater system. By relining the pipes, flows to the treatment plant were down more than 90%. Keeping groundwater out of the sewer pipes – and keeping the sewage in the pipes – is critical for environmental and public health protection, and it helps maintain the natural beauty of this scenic location. A portion of the fees charged for staying overnight in the park will repay the loan, and help to fund even more water quality projects in the state.

Spring is just around the corner – make plans now to get out and enjoy a park near you!


About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.

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