Experts, citizens examine ideas for cleaning up South Bethany canal

Canvassing the neighborhood by car and by boat, teams consisting of members of the Center for Inland Bays and the Center for Watershed Protection, DelDOT employees, engineers and interested citizens started their assessment of stormwater retrofit opportunities in the Anchorage Canal in South Bethany on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: George Junkin, Lisa Fraley-McNeal, Chris Bason and Buzz Henfin toured the South Bethany area to help assess the condition of the canals.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
George Junkin, Lisa Fraley-McNeal, Chris Bason and Buzz Henfin toured the South Bethany area to help assess the condition of the canals.

One group included concerned citizens Buzz Henfin of Fenwick Island and George Junkin of South Bethany, Lisa Fraley-McNeal of the Center for Watershed Protection, based in Ellicot City, Md., and Chris Bason, scientific and technical coordinator for the Center for the Inland Bays.

In their neighborhood source assessment, they drove around looking at percentages of impervious surface cover, percentages of grass cover, landscaping and irrigation methods.

Touring the area by boat, they were able to see shower and stormwater drains that drain directly into the Anchorage Canal, bringing all of the unfiltered nutrients along with the water, and were able to easily view the forebay that acts as a catch-all for about 65 acres worth of stormwater from Sea Colony to the south.

Amidst all these opportunities for change, they saw homes with oyster gardens, too, the dichotomy representing the changing landscape.

“It’s all about education” said George Junkin, who got interested in water quality after retiring from his job as an engineer. “I put a concrete driveway in. If I had known what I know now, I would have put rocks in – and it would have been cheaper.”

Because surfaces that water can permeate better filter the nitrogen and phosphorus that usually ends up in the canals, and eventually the bays, people are focusing more and more on the significance of permeable surfaces. Concrete or blacktop driveways do little in the way of treating runoff, while permeable treatments such as stone allow the water to filter naturally into local waterways.

Short of changing their driveway type, homeowners can take simple measures for retrofits, such as installing rain barrels to filter that strong flush of water straight from roofs or installing rain gardens to help filter the runoff before it gets into the canals.

“It involves a good deal of investigation to find opportunities to treat pollutants in communities where space is at a premium,” said Bason. “Treatment practices range from something as simple as rain barrels that capture runoff from roofs to ‘constructed wetlands,’ engineered to suck up nitrogen and phosphorus.”

The Anchorage Canal is on the Little Assawoman Bay, which suffers from chronically low dissolved oxygen and harmful-algal-blooms. The Town of South Bethany approached the CIB and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to assist with the water quality issue and was key in securing a grant for the assessment from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Because most of the area’s development occurred before regulations or controls, runoff from impervious surfaces flows untreated and unfiltered into the bays. Nutrients, bacteria and oils enter the waters, where they can be harmful to aquatic life and people.

The Center for the Inland Bays is working with communities to meet its goal of treating 4,500 acres of this type of development through the stormwater retrofitting process, which would be a voluntary program.

There were three types of investigations: the neighborhood source assessment, the hotspot site investigation and the retrofit recognizance. In the retrofit recognizance, the teams looked at feasibility and projected cost of a retrofit.

The opportunities will be prioritized once all the date is collected and the assessment will be used to direct retrofit implementation beginning next year.