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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Delaware (Section 319I - 1994)

In the past several years, Delaware has become increasingly concerned about having to close down beaches to swimming for extended periods because of bacterial contamination. Lake water quality and designated uses, such as public swimming, are threatened primarily by high levels of Enterococcus bacteria.

Saving a Recreational Treasure

Trap Pond is one of Delaware's most important freshwater recreational resources. Located in the Nanticoke - watershed, a priority watershed that drains into the Chesapeake Bay, Trap Pond is the recreational focus for Trap Pond State Park. So Delaware officials were understandably concerned about the lake's deteriorating water quality. Although the watershed has no point discharges and little developmental pressure, erosion, pollution transport, and increased nutrient influx were contributing to the lake's surface and groundwater pollution. Increasing bacterial contamination and symptoms of accelerated eutrophication such as sedimentation and algal blooms were becoming increasingly obvious each season.

A comparative study found that Saunders Branch, the major tributary to Trap Pond, had elevated bacteria and phosphorus levels. Sanitary surveys revealed the two probable causes--a direct discharge from an underground septic system and livestock with direct access to the stream. Property owners were notified of the leaking septic systems and corrected the problem, and the affected areas of Saunders Branch responded immediately with decreased bacteria levels. Livestock accessibility, the second cause, was addressed with a one-year section 319 grant of $84,419. This funded a conservation planner through the Sussex Conservation District and Soil Conservation Service. The planner provided technical assistance to implement animal waste management systems and nutrient management plans on farms throughout the watershed. Some 98 percent of the producers installed manure storage facilities, buffer strips, and other best management practices. And all producers fenced livestock out of streams.

Water quality sampling will continue throughout 1994 and 1995 to document expected decreases in bacteria and phosphorus levels. Bacteria levels will likely drop in the short term; phosphorus level decreases may take longer.

Strong support and collaboration among the public, livestock producers, and multiple agencies have brought improvements. Swimming continues as the main contact recreation for thousands of visitors to Trap Pond State Park.

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