By Dr. Anthony Policastro

In 1978, the Love Canal in New York state became a national disgrace. Chemicals had seeped into the water. They had caused all kinds of medical problems. There were 11 different carcinogens found in the water. The population had 33 percent with evidence of chromosome damage compared to about one percent in the general population.

President Carter used the federal fund for the cleanup. It was the first time that funds were used for something other than natural disaster.

Oversight of clean water was clearly needed. Subsequently a number of initiatives by both the federal and state governments occurred. The federal governing directive is 33 U.S.C. 1251. It has been amended multiple times.

It has also been challenged multiple times. Supreme Court decisions have restricted which waterways were actually covered by the federal requirements. That left it to individual states to make sure that waterways were covered appropriately.

A study done after a 2013 Supreme Court decision found that there was no consistency among the states in terms of covering those waterways no longer covered by federal law.

At that time 17 states had laws on the books to impose statewide limitations above and beyond the federal requirements. An additional 19 states (including Delaware) had laws on the books to match federal requirements. The rest of the states did not address the issue by law one way or another.

Then in 2020 the Supreme Court took further action. The result of that decision essentially said that the federal government was responsible for navigable waterways. States would be responsible for groundwater.

As might be expected many states have passed a variety of laws addressing this issue. One of the more famous ones was proposition 65 in California. That was passed back in 1986. It called for decreasing exposures to toxic chemicals. It also required businesses to disclose when such exposures might occur.

Delaware makes water testing for well owners available at the Adams State Service Center in Georgetown. Kits for chemical and bacteriological testing are available for a total of $4 at that location.

House Bill 200 was passed this year. Its title was the Clean Water for Delaware Act. The bill was signed into law by Governor Carney on July 22. It includes a trust to protect Delaware waterways. It includes a plan to rebuild Delaware’s drinking water infrastructure. It has a focus on underserved communities.

One only has to look at the issues the town of Blades has had with its drinking water the last few years to recognize how this is a local problem. We see many health issues become more prominent over the years. It is not likely that we will ever know how much of that might come from the water supply that we take for granted (Thanks to Linda Johnston for suggesting this topic).

COVID update- Up until last week, the number of new cases this July was following the same pattern as last July. So it was not clear if the current spike in new cases was a temporary one or not.

This week suggests that is not so. The number of new cases rose from 236,000 last week (half of last July’s number) to 569,000 (more than last July).

Those numbers are the highest we have had since February. The virus continues its mission to infect those who have not yet been vaccinated.

Sussex County new cases moved from 136 last week to 195 this week. That is about four times the 45-50 new cases per week that we had been running.