Selbyville residents approve $2.5M loan for water filtration

Show Selbyville the money. Tired of worrying over gasoline additives in the water supply, residents of the town voted Dec. 4 to borrow $2,526,300 from the Delaware Drinking Water Revolving Fund.

But in twist that truly benefits the Town, the loan has 0 percent interest and will be 100 percent forgiven when the water filtration system it will pay for is complete.

Selbyville town code requires a public referendum for all major loans — even one that would be forgiven — so residents stepped up, voting 88-0 to approve the loan.

The town council unanimously approved the loan in November.

“I think this is a golden opportunity to address this problem,” said Bob Dickerson, town administrator. “We have to take steps to deal with the contamination in our water supply. And whether we do it through getting basically free money — we have to do it anyway.”

State and town officials aren’t entirely sure where and why gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is leaking into their groundwater. It’s not an issue unique to Selbyville, and it’s not the Town’s fault, which adds to their eligibility for funding.

In 2011, residents approved a similar loan, 201-0, to build two new wells after older wells were contaminated with slightly-elevated MTBE levels.

MTBE filtration could put all five town wells back in use, including the old ones taken offline and the new one that just began showing trace signs.

The filters are simple: two simple air-stripping towers, around 30 feet tall, to be built behind the existing water plant. In the columns, water flows down while air is pumped upward. MTBE is a volatile organic that evaporates when it touches air, so the exposure to air pulls it from the water.

Design and installation may take up to 18 months.

“This is a huge benefit to the Town at very little risk. … You don’t get close to $2.6 million in a grant anymore,” said Erik Retzlaff, town engineer, at the November council meeting.