Looking south on Donovans Road in Lewes, there’s Jeri DeMoss’s home, the Lewes Georgetown Trail, then Savannah Road Center, where businesses such as Teller Wines and the Lewes Diner lease space.
“When the wind blows in this direction, it burns all around my mouth,” DeMoss said. “It smells like an outhouse. It’s been horrible.”
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued Savannah Road Center LLC, care of Howard and Jacqueline Ritter of Harbeson, a notice of violation for unauthorized discharge July 26.
The notice said the department saw wastewater and grease trap contents surfacing above the Savannah Road Center septic system Jan. 15, 2021, and since then, no formal documentation of repairs or planned repairs had been received.
“The exposure of untreated wastewater to the public is a significant public health hazard,” the notice stated.
The Ritters could not be reached by phone.
A small area of the Savannah Road Center property, between the center and the Lewes Georgetown Trail, was fenced off in a semi-circle Thursday, July 29. The unfenced side is flush against the brush along the Lewes Georgetown Trail, where the topography flows downhill.
Last week, cyclists and runners blissfully passed by the location of the raw sewage a few feet south, and about 1,000 feet north, at Donovan Smith Mobile Home Park, several larger areas fenced off for the same reason.
“I think the Lewes Georgetown Trail is OK at this point. I’ve not had any indication that there’s been any encroachment onto the trail itself,” said Lewes Mayor Ted Becker.
GROWTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT:5 questions Sussex County needs to answer before approving development plans in Fenwick Island
Both Savannah Road Center and Donovan Smith Mobile Home Park are bordered by Ebenezer Branch, which stems from Roosevelt Inlet and the Delaware Bay.
“Of course we’re concerned about the environment, that’s why we’re very interested in annexing these properties,” Becker said.
Donovan Smith was issued its notice of violation by DNREC on July 7. Multiple government agencies have been attempting to annex the park into the Lewes sewer system, and Becker said the city also hopes to connect to Savannah Road Center.
“There has been discussion at the Board of Public Works about providing (Savannah Road Center) service, but we have not actually spoken to the property owner, at the city level, regarding annexation yet, but we will be doing that,” Becker said.
DNREC issued a previous owner of the Savannah Road Center property a septic system permit in 1984, according to the notice of violation. The same former owner was permitted to connect a restaurant to the septic system in 2003.
At that time, DNREC required as part of the permit conditions that the property be connected to a county or city sewer system as soon as possible.
The current owner, Savannah Road Center LLC, attempted to renew their septic system permit with DNREC in 2015.
According to the notice, at that time, “application processing was put on hold due to the potential for this site to be connected to central sewer during sewer extension projects that were ongoing at that time.” The notice also said DNREC observed “compliance concerns” at Savannah Road Center multiple times over the last several years.
The agency is requiring Savannah Road Center to erect a fence, which they’ve already done, and post “keep out” signs. The property owners are required to, within five days of the notice, pump out the grease trap and septic and dosing tanks and continue pumping them every three days or more. They are required to submit a corrective action plan to DNREC within 45 days.
The notice of violation reiterates what DNREC first required in 2003: The property must be connected to the city sewer system as soon as possible.