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Rehoboth City Hall springs a leak

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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SOLA3 seeks meeting on Lake Gerar silt

Sediment from the Rehoboth Beach City Hall construction found its way into Lake Gerar April 1, sparking complaints to city officials.

City Manager Sharon Lynn said workers were removing water from the excavation area to create a dry site as they prepared to install a well. The dewatering was completed April 1, Lynn said, the same day runoff from the site became noticeable.

Jessica Watson, program manager with Sussex Conservation District, said the city's contractor was well pointing, the practice of drawing down the groundwater to install the well. The city had the appropriate sediment controls, but the sediment was so small that when the water went off the site, it ended up in Lake Gerar. Watson said when the runoff went off the site, work was stopped until inspectors from the conservation district could examine what happened. She said the city was required to go above and beyond the existing sediment controls, and the city complied.

Lynn said heavy rains caused runoff; existing silt fencing has been reinforced to slow the flow of silty water. When the rain stopped, contractors refurbished stone sediment traps that stop the flow of sediment off the site.

"This is continually being monitored, and the contractors are following through with extra measures in place to stop as much flow as possible through the established erosion and sediment control measures," Lynn said. Once the flow of water stopped, she said, the sediment should settle out of the lake water.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spokesman Michael Globetti said, "DNREC delegates sediment and stormwater authority to the Sussex Conservation District, which had an inspector onsite upon learning of the incident, and let DNREC know that the situation was largely contained with additional controls in place after last week's heavy rainfall led to the sediment runoff."

Mayor Sam Cooper said he did not want to see materials get into the lake, but the material that got through is so fine and so small that it passed through catch basins designed to trap sand and other solids. He said the material that reached the lake is so fine it dissolves in water.

Still, Sallie Forman, president of Save Our Lakes Alliance3, was not buying it. SOLA3 was the driving force behind the restoration of Lake Gerar in 2004, and Forman said since that time, the southwest end of the lake has filled in with silt from stormwater, waste and debris. She said SOLA3 made the city aware of this problem a year ago.

"Of course, the runoff from the City Hall construction only adds to the sediment accumulation, and it is unlikely the sediment will settle out of the lake water once the flow has stopped," Forman said. She said once the City Hall construction is complete, SOLA3 was planning to meet with city officials to discuss remedies for the silt problems and related costs to fix them.

Cooper said the only real solution to silt buildup is dredging, an expensive and difficult operation to mount, as witnessed by the inability of the city and DNREC to mount a dredging operation for the narrow, west finger of Silver Lake.

While the city and environmental officials are considering the runoff issue resolved, the City Hall project moves along. Steel support beams are being driven into the ground to support the basement excavation of the building, Lynn said.

Workers are using two cranes for the project, which will see 33 30-foot-long piles driven into the ground. Lynn said the work will be noisy for residents and will last 10 working days, weather permitting.

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Original Publication Date: April 8, 2016

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