Ellendale’s long wait for clean water ends

ELLENDALE — It’s been a long time coming but the grassroots effort to bring first centralized sewer and now public water to Ellendale celebrated a major success this week.

On Tuesday the Delaware Public Service Commission approved the certificate of public convenience and necessity application for Sussex County to provide water to the Ellendale Water District.

Dr. Bishop Major Foster appreciated the action. He said local residents often fill up jugs and other containers with clean water from his church, Philadelphia Pentecostal Holiness Church, because of poor quality water in their homes.

“Down on New Hope Road, 95 percent of those people down there cannot use their water. All up and down this road, North and South Old State Road, they cannot use their water. I don’t know why, I reckon it’s God, but we have excellent water,” Dr. Bishop Foster said of the church property.

“We have a daycare, so we got excellent water here. So, most of the neighbors come here with jugs and get their water from me. They get their water from me. We got a spigot out there. They can come and get all the water they want.”

The problem will be resolved soon, after decades of passionate volunteering by community members like Dr. Bishop Foster, Harold Truxon and others involved in the Ellendale Civic Association.
“It started with the sewer about 10 years ago and my friend Harold Truxon,” he recalled.

Mr. Truxon began advocating for better quality services after finding out that nitrates, bacteria from failing septics and other pollutants was found in many local wells within the town of Ellendale, south of Milford.
After finally making headway, residents were told they had to choose — a new sewer system or a new water system.

Knowing some residents were still using outhouses, a new sewer system prevailed.
The Ellendale Sewer District was funded by a loan in 2000 and was expected to be completed by the end of 2002 after those community members and others had pushed for a sewer district for more than a decade prior, according to the Sussex County Council.

Although the sewer project took longer than expected, it was eventually completed for the town of Ellendale.
Then, residents had to go back to the drawing board to advocate for their next project.

The group worked tirelessly to promote a referendum which would be used to create the new water district.
“If you go over to that trailer there [next to the church], you get brown water. But up here, it’s clear. But, see, this well is only 30 feet down. You get 40 to 50 feet down and you hit iron,” Dr. Bishop Foster said of a local home he owns.

“I know since that trailer has been there, I’ve done put three/four pumps in. Because what it does is rusted out the pumps. Ellendale is low land, so the water table is so low and then you go down like 60 feet, you get iron.
“Most of the wells here are 50 to 60 feet down. Most of the time, you put a well in at 100 feet or more and you get clear water. But not in Ellendale.”

Two failed referendums, one in 2009 and another in 2017, dealt setbacks to the community that desperately sought fresh, clear water running from their faucets.

But the referendum in 2018 passed, allowing Sussex County officials to proceed with the new Ellendale Water District which will carry water to about 100 residences along North and South Old State Road.
Sussex County submitted its application on May 24 and it was unanimously approved by the Delaware Public Service commissioners on Aug. 6.

“This has been a long time coming and I want to congratulate the Town of Ellendale and all those involved for a job well done” Chairman Dallas Winslow said.

The commission added via press release: “The project is expected to be funded through a loan from the state of Delaware Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund, Rural Development USDA and any other available resources for which this project is eligible.”

Dr. Bishop Foster said several fundraisers are also in the works to help fund the new initiative and ensure its success.
“To us, to me, I don’t think nobody can feel the way we feel because the fact that we become part of those people. And to see them without water, they can’t wash their clothes, it’s going to be a relief dropped off of me.

“Being a pastor, your heart goes out to people. That’s a stress on us. People don’t realize that. A lot of stress is going to come off of me because these people are going to have water and better living conditions.

“I know Truxon, if he lives to see it, it’s going to be the same thing. They said in two years, we’ll have our water. I’m looking forward to that day,” Dr. Bishop Foster said.

According to the Delaware Public Service Commission, Sussex County will provide billing services with the average household paying about $430 per year for the water district.

Relief for those over the age of 65 and residents in other circumstances may be available once the district is up and running.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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