Lewes BPW seeks additional state funding for pipe replacement

Plans to replace 100-year-old water pipes in the Burton neighborhood of Lewes are slowly moving forward after the Board of Public Works voted to increase the amount in a state loan request.

The board hopes to raise a total of $8.5 million to fund pipe replacement on Park Avenue and Johnson Avenue between Fourth Street and Burton Avenue.

The main Fourth Street project is already budgeted for the 2026-27 fiscal year.

CEO Tom Panetta said this was a good time to apply for a loan from the State Revolving Fund because interest rates were around 2%.

Burton residents have been demanding new pipes for years, claiming the deterioration was contaminating their drinking water and making some people sick.

Many Burton residents crowded into the May 22 BPW meeting holding up photos showing the inside of the pipes. The photos show samples, called coupons, recently cut from pipes on Johnson Avenue.

Park Avenue resident Brenda Azfal said she and many of her neighbors are part of a group called the Burton Clean Water Committee. They publish a monthly newsletter to keep everyone updated on the latest developments.

“In general, we are currently satisfied with the decision of the BPW Board meeting to submit an amendment [in June] for the government grant/loan, which they believe has a good chance of being approved,” Azfal said in an email. “We reminded the board that there are five streets in our district and each of them deserves new water lines, so our work continues.”

Engineer Charlie O'Donnell of George, Miles & Buhr said the photos showed tuberculosis, a chemical reaction that causes oxide deposits in cast iron pipes, referring to a section taken from pipe in the Park Avenue-DuPont Avenue area.

“It's pretty much the same in other pipes in the system,” O'Donnell said.

He said the pipes under Johnson Avenue are about 75 years old. He said the pipes on Park Avenue were installed between 1904 and 1922 and are among the oldest in the city.

“We are implementing a plan to correct the mistakes of the past and move forward,” Panetta said.

He said the loan application will be submitted in June. He said BPW will know by October whether the application has been accepted.

BPW Executive Director Austin Calaman said the loan would be split 60-40: The board would receive 60% for pipe replacement and the city would use the remaining 40% for repaving, installing sidewalks, curbs and gutters. The city would repay its portion of the loan to BPW.

“We are working with BPW. They will consider citizen safety a priority,” said Mayor Andrew Williams. “Hopefully we can work with them, whatever funding they get from the state.”

Calaman said if financing, regulatory approvals and tenders go as planned, work should begin in fall 2025 or winter 2026.

“We are aware of DelDOT’s planned closure of New Road as part of the Canary Creek Bridge project and coordination with Beebe Hospital for any type of closures and detours,” Calaman said.

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