Dagsboro working toward water agreement

The town of Dagsboro, which currently purchases its water from neighboring Millsboro under a 20-year contract signed in 2002, plans to tap into Artesian Water Co.’s new regional system as another water source for the town. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

DAGSBORO — Artesian Water Co. and town officials hope to connect with nearby Millsboro and Frankford to map out proposed interconnections and the water-supply future for south-central Sussex County.

Dagsboro Town Council, at its virtual meeting Monday, postponed action on Artesian’s request for an interconnection with Frankford, instead opting to meet soon with representatives of its two neighboring towns and Artesian, which is constructing a new regional treatment facility along Armory Road in Dagsboro.

The town of Dagsboro is currently locked in a 20-year agreement with the town of Millsboro, which will provide Dagsboro’s water through December 2022.

Artesian’s Greater Dagsboro Water Treatment Plant, projected to be operational in April 2021, will provide an additional supply of 2 million gallons per day to the region, serving the towns of Dagsboro and Frankford and other areas in southeastern Sussex County, according to John Thaeder, senior vice president for Artesian Resources Corp. & Subsidiaries.

Artesian in early April of this year finalized the purchase of Frankford’s outdated water system.

Dagsboro officials, who say they have a rocky water agreement with Millsboro, are attempting to set up a meeting with all parties from the three towns, as well as Artesian representatives and Kyle Gulbronson, a consultant with AECOM, an infrastructure firm.

“I would not have a problem at all with the interconnection between Dagsboro and Frankford,” said Dagsboro Mayor Brian Baull. “Obviously, that is a system that you (Artesian) have now, and you’re only going to make their water quality better, which can only benefit both towns. Obviously, the sticking point is going to be what the town of Millsboro does. Because the one time that we had to deal with opening up an interconnection for an emergency situation, it was not pretty for a few days between the towns. I would prefer that not happen again.”

Mr. Gulbronson agreed that meeting with Millsboro officials is necessary.

“I think right now, it’s just in planning stages for the interconnection,” he said. “I don’t think they are going to flip the switch, if you will, tomorrow. I think there does need to be conversations with Millsboro.”

About a month ago, at a meeting at Dagsboro Town Hall, Artesian “laid out how the water plant would tie into the Dagsboro system and into the system that is outside of town. There is actually an interconnection that would go into town and go out of town,” Mr. Thaeder said. “We also discussed an interconnection that would tie our system at Frankford to the town.”

This would produce a steadier movement or flow of water that would basically result in “fresh water coming into the tank and fresh water leaving on a more consistent basis,” said Mr. Thaeder. “The movement of the water, particularly coming from the plant and the water that would be leaving through the other interconnection to our customers to the south, it would allow the water to move. We would be producing water that would be in town, so there would be very little travel as far as the water getting to the residents of the town. I’ll call it ‘fresh water,’ because it really doesn’t have much travel time to it. I think … that arrangement works well for both parties.”

One of the current issues with Dagsboro’s water “is the water coming into the town has very low chlorine,” Mr. Thaeder said. “It is aspirated by the fact that it goes to a fairly large tank and sits for a period of time and the chlorine will diminish.”

Dagsboro presently relies predominantly on one interconnection, from Millsboro, said Mr. Thaeder.

He added that the town’s agreement with Millsboro does not indicate anything about that being Dagsboro’s only interconnection. “Taking water from both would greatly improve your chlorine residuals within the town,” Mr. Thaeder said. “And our water is, I think at this point, considerably cheaper than Millsboro’s water — obviously, a benefit to town on cost of water.”

Last November, town of Dagsboro water bills reflected a rate increase after the town learned in July 2019 that Millsboro had increased the water rate for Dagsboro from $3 to $5.40 per 1,000 gallons — an 80% hike that put Dagsboro in a deficit position projected at more than $117,000. Dagsboro leaders opted to address this dilemma through a usage rate increase, coupled with internal revenue transfer from water impact fees that totaled about $19,000.

Dagsboro Councilman William Chandler III, noting that he has read the agreement with Millsboro, said his interpretation is “there is nothing in the four corners of the document that prohibits another interconnection. The document does read that Millsboro is going to supply — and Dagsboro agrees, to take from Millsboro water — up to 90,000 gallons per day. It doesn’t specify a minimum. It just says that Dagsboro will take a supply of water up to 90,000 gallons per day.”

Mr. Thaeder agreed.

“That is our position,” he said. “I do need to clarify, because I think it is an important one. I think that Dagsboro does need to continue to take some water from Millsboro. I don’t think it needs to be anywhere near what you take today. But I think that not taking water at all would be, if not a violation, not the intent of the agreement.”

Mr. Thaeder said Artesian is “more than happy to meet with Millsboro to answer their questions. Because, of course, they are going to have questions. I think you would want to open a dialogue.”

Mr. Gulbronson said a meeting would help with planning.

“It only makes good planning sense,” he said, noting Millsboro’s water needs with the town’s rapid residential and commercial growth. “With Millsboro’s current water situation, they might want to take water from Artesian. Historically, Millsboro’s issue with the interconnection with Frankford was the poor water quality in Frankford. Now that Artesian has taken over (Frankford’s) water system, (you) assume all past quality issues are going to go away.”

Mr. Gulbronson, who has consulting ties with both Dagsboro and Millsboro, said his role would be neutral as a “voice of reason between the two.”