With the waters of the Delaware Bay as a backdrop, Governor John Carney signed into law House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act, on Thursday, July 22, 2021.
The legislation creates a framework, and funding source, to improve the quality of Delaware’s water supply and waterways.
"Specifically geared towards hard to finance systems in small towns and small communities mostly across Sussex County," said Carney.
State House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D - Bear) said clean water is a right, not a privilege, but it's been a decades long effort to get to this point.
"This bill has evolved so much over the last few years," said Longhurst, "and it started thirty years ago, and then it started back in 2015 when we picked it up again."
Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives Pete Schwarzkopf (D - Rehoboth Beach) says it's the most impactful legislation he's seen in the General Assembly.
"This will have an impact in our lifetime, in our kids' lifetime, and our grandkids' lifetime," said Schwarzkopf.
State Senator Ernie Lopez (R - Lewes) noted the bipartisan backing of the legislation and said the issue is one that transcends politics.
"When it comes to feeding people, clothing people, housing people, and getting them clean water, those are not partisan issues," said Lopez. "Those are our issues. Those are Delaware issues."
According to details in the legislation over the next 5 years, more than $500 million in water and wastewater system upgrades are needed statewide, including systems for underserved communities and numerous at-risk systems currently operated by homeowner’s associations in Sussex County.
The bill also said more than $150 million in stormwater upgrades are needed throughout Delaware along with more than $75 million for removing toxic pollutants from various waterways.
A five member board will manage a trust that is authorized to issue Clean Water Revenue Bonds for projects approved by the General Assembly and will administer the funds through the already existing Water Infrastructure Advisory Council.
The board will be comprised of the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Secretary of Finance, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Social Services, and an appointed member with financial expertise.