Future Of Clean Water Initiative Another Concern For Ellendale - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Future Of Clean Water Initiative Another Concern For Ellendale

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ELLENDALE, Del. – The uncertainty of Governor Markell's Clean Water Initiative is yet another concern for members of the Ellendale community.

Delaware's budget writing committee got back to work today to tackle a list of suggested changes to Governor Markell's 2015 proposed budget, which includes addressing a multimillion-dollar deficit for the current year. It's reportedly a problem that has left some of Governor Markell's other proposals up in the air, including his clean water initiative. The plan would include an annual fee on households and businesses, to clean up the first state's waterways.

"To hear that it may not pass because if the budget is very saddening," says Iona Smith Nze, pastor of the Mt. Zion AME Church in Ellendale, Delaware.

47 ABC spent the afternoon in Ellendale on Tuesday, just over a week after the town held a press conference about their current drinking water conditions. Residents say now more than ever it is crucial for the state to step in.

"I'm fed up," says Harold Truxon, an Ellendale resident.

One of the town's biggest concerns is the small mobile home community off of Old State Road. A number of the residents are unable to drink the water, which produces an egg-like scent when it comes out of the faucet and a rusty, dark color once it's boiled.

"You can't drink it, it's a nasty smell," says Kiarra Gatewood, a resident in the mobile home community. "I wouldn't even want to bathe in it either but I have no choice. We have to buy water and it's expensive, because you have to wash clothes, drink water, use water for cooking, cleaning, it's a lot, it adds up."

Residents say it's been an ongoing battle for more than 10 years. One big factor that is holding back state help for the mobile home community is that Delaware's Department of Public Health only regulates public, not private wells. Officials say the residents can purchase a kit to test the water, but residents say they want to bring the department out to the community to show them the conditions.

"They have children back there," says Loretta Benson, executive director of the Ellendale Community Civic Improvement Association. "It doesn't make sense."

However, the problems did not begin just in the mobile home community. Back in 2009, Ellendale's Mount Zion AME church and a private well nearby tested positive for volatile organic compounds, including benzene.

In an e-mail to 47 ABC, Christina Wirtz, outreach ombudsman with the Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances for DNREC, says they provided bottled water to the impacted locations and installed carbon treatment filters to ensure safe drinking water. In October 2009, a deeper replacement well was completed at the church to further ensure safe drinking water, which was reportedly not impacted by the contamination in the shallow groundwater. Based on the last sampling event at the church on December 17th, 2013, Wirtz says the shallow groundwater, which was only used as a monitoring well for sampling purposes, did not exceed federal drinking water standards.

Pastor of the church, Iona Smith Nze says they still are not taking any chances.

"We continue to take safe guards," says Pastor Smith Nze. "It we're not sure that every guest who enters is going to get clean water and will not be impacted in some kind of way, we're not going to serve it."

The potential reason behind church's groundwater contamination could be the former J&H Auto Salvage Yard site, located across the street. DNREC consultants started their investigation there back in May 2010, and it has been ongoing ever since.

However, the situation in the mobile home community is still a mystery, and residents want answers.

"We're going to keep it out there and keep pushing and pushing until something is done," says Benson.

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