The poor condition of Delaware’s waters has been known for decades. The facts are simple to understand, however difficult to accept. We cannot eat the fish and crabs from our waters. We get sick from swimming in our waters. Ninety percent of Delaware’s waterways are polluted, 100 miles of Delaware’s waters have fish advisories. Delaware is ranked second in the nation in incidence rate of cancer.
The drinking water of several communities, including Ellendale, Blades and Millsboro, have been contaminated and unusable. Poultry processor Allen-Harim’s plans to spray wastewater in an area of Milton already compromised by polluting activities could have a devastating effect, magnitudes greater than any experienced to date.
Our elected officials and government agencies — specifically the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) and Sussex County Board of Adjustment — have been far too amenable to the primary polluters. Fines are not collected, and permits are granted without adequate study on impacts on our water and air.
The problems will only become more frequent, the consequences direr, and the negative attention given to our County more widespread if bold action is not taken immediately. We have a lot at stake. Our county is on verge of being the next Flint, Mich., threatening our health, tourist industry and property values.
It is time for our elected and appointed officials to muster the courage to take appropriate action. We need our legislatures to have the courage to collect fines from and deny permits to polluters. It requires courage to admit that we need to raise funds to save our beautiful state from further devastating effects of pollution.
As important, it will require talent to generate public support for the programs that are needed. Leaders should use their platform to inform us as to what is needed to remedy the polluted waters of Sussex County. Avoiding confrontation and debate is easy. It takes a courageous leader to guide us toward unpopular, but correct choices.
Courage is also required of us, the residents of Delaware, to take a stand and insist on clean air and water for all future generations. We tend to expect courage too readily from the powerful and then too eager to wrap ourselves in cynicism when they let us down because they weren’t perfect.
We need to make sure our legislatures know we expect. Call their offices, write them letters, attend hearings and speak up, write letters-to-the-editor. In this election season, vote for courage, vote for talent, vote for character, and vote for a clean Sussex County.