LEWES, Del.- A water treatment plant malfunction causing partially-treated wastewater to discharge into the Lewes canal could be resolved as soon as Friday.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) says an equipment malfunction at the Lewes wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) was reported Wednesday, Dec. 18. DNREC says the malfunction could not be quickly fixed, so the WWTP began bypassing treatment stages and discharging partially-treated effluent on Thursday December 19th.

The Lewes Board of Public Works says it has asked employees at Tidewater Inc. to work 24/7 to make repairs. On Christmas Day, DNREC announced the parts needed to resolve the discharge are expected to arrive on December 27th for immediate installation. DNREC says the equipment--called membranes--normally provide a very high level of effluent treatment, but they were contaminated during an automated back washing process. When the new membranes arrive, the Lewes WWTP will be able to treat incoming effluent flow as normal and stop the current bypass pumping.

Tidewater Utilities, at DNREC's direction, is continuing to sample partially-treated effluent discharge for fecal bacteria count at locations after leaving the plant. Though Lewes BPW Board President D. Preston Lee says the discharge going through the marsh helps clean it naturally too.

For more information on the wastewater treatment plant issue and DNREC's request people reduce water usage, click here.