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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : Senator Coons, DNREC Sec. O’Mara join volunteer planting event to restore Mirror Lake in Dover

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Contact:   Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.

Senator Coons, DNREC Sec. O’Mara join volunteer planting event
to restore Mirror Lake in Dover
Mirror Lake Remediation and Restoration Project supports
Clean Water for Delaware’s Future Initiative

DOVER (April 22, 2014) – In honor of Earth Day, Senator Chris Coons and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara joined with DNREC scientists and volunteers to plant native shrubs and flowering plants on the intertidal wetland and western bank of Mirror Lake. The wetland was created last November as part of the Mirror Lake Remediation and Restoration Project.

The plantings not only beautify the wetland and lake shoreline, but also create habitat for small fish and help restore the ecology of the lake. This project supports Governor Markell’s Clean Water for Delaware’s Future – the comprehensive plan for protecting public health and cleaning up Delaware’s bays, rivers and streams within a generation, while creating jobs and strengthening Delaware’s economy.

"Mirror Lake is one of the defining landmarks as you enter our state capital, and I am pleased to join friends and colleagues today to lend a hand in the restoration efforts of this Dover landmark," said Senator Coons. "On this Earth Day, as in every day, we are thankful for our natural resources and are pleased for the opportunity to restore the beauty to Mirror Lake."

“Restoring Mirror Lake and reversing the environmental damage that has been done in one of the most beautiful lakes in Kent County in order to make the water safe for fishing and recreation is important for protecting public health and strengthening Delaware’s economy,” said Sec. O’Mara. “We anticipate that the technology used here can be replicated in rivers, streams and ponds across the state to clean up our waterways. This is a great example of the type of project that the Governor’s Clean Water for Delaware’s Future initiative can accelerate to help Delaware clean up our waterways within a generation.”

Today, volunteers worked on the second phase of the project and planted nearly 430 shrubs and more than 2,000 plants that adapt well to wet and dry conditions, the fluctuating tide and the salinity of Mirror Lake.  Native plants, including swamp rose-mallow, blueflag iris, three-square bulrush and seaside goldenrod were among the species planted.

Mirror Lake has been in decline for several decades due to chemical contaminants in bottom sediments that accumulate in fish, invasive plants, pollution and sedimentation. Fish in the lake are unsafe to eat, and a consumption advisory has been in place since 1988.

Last November, DNREC with help from numerous partners, completed an innovative project that used activated carbon – the same technology used in many water filters – to bind contaminants in lake sediments. Almost 79 tons of the activated carbon product, SediMite™, were incorporated into 5 acres of lake bottom and downstream channel sediments. DNREC personnel from every Division provided labor to broadcast the SediMite™ into the lake.

The application is expected to result in the reduction or removal of the fish consumption advisory in the lake and the St. Jones River downstream to Court Street in Dover within three to five years. The project marks the largest application of SediMite™ anywhere in the U.S. to date, and is the first state-funded sediment remediation project of its kind in the country.

In addition to the SediMite™ application, the intertidal wetland was created by converting an existing sandbar in the lake. Coir logs – artificial logs made of coconut husks – and stone rip-rap flow diversion structures were installed to protect the new wetland and prevent further streambank erosion.

DNREC has kept project costs down by using volunteer labor whenever possible. In preparation of today’s Earth Day event, invasive plants were removed by labor provided by the Delaware Division of Corrections, as well as by AmeriCorps volunteers. More than 50 volunteers donated their time to help with the plantings on the intertidal wetland and western bank along the lake.     

The Mirror Lake Remediation and Restoration Project is being funded primarily by state sources, from the Delaware Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act program and from federal grant funding through the Clean Water Act Section 319 Nonpoint Source for the wetland restoration and coir log installation. The project also includes Community Transportation Funds from Sen. Brian Bushweller and Rep. Darryl Scott.

Project partners include all Divisions of DNREC, University of Maryland Baltimore County, the City of Dover, the Silver Lake Commission, Brightfields, Inc., Biohabitats, Inc., local political leaders and others.

DNREC and University of Maryland Baltimore County scientists will monitor the effectiveness of the innovative treatment technology and today’s restoration effort by collecting and analyzing sediment, water and fish tissue samples over the next three years.

To learn more about the Mirror Lake project, view the videos on DNREC’s YouTube channel, “Introduction to the Mirror Lake Restoration Project” at and “Mirror Lake Results” at The video, “Restoring Mirror Lake” won 2nd place at the 2014 Delaware Press Association Communication Contest, in the Video for Website category.

Vol. 44, No. 117

  This project supports Governor Markell’s Clean Water for Delaware’s Future initiative – a comprehensive plan for cleaning up Delaware’s bays, rivers and streams so they meet water quality standards for drinking, swimming and supporting fish and other aquatic life. The plan accelerates a wide range of clean water projects that protect public health and safety, improve water quality, increase the resiliency of Delaware’s communities to storms and flooding, support our multi-billion dollar tourism and agriculture industries, create jobs and bolster the economic revitalization of our towns and cities.

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