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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances : Site Investigation & Restoration : Watershed Approach to Toxics Assessment and Restoration

 Watershed Approach to Toxics Assessment and Restoration


Sampling in Little Mill CreekThe Watershed Approach to Toxics Assessment and Restoration (WATAR) is a watershed-scale approach to the evaluation of contaminant sources, transport pathways and receptors. WATAR combines the efforts and expertise of the Site Investigation and Restoration Section (SIRS) and the Watershed Assessment and Management Section (WAMS) to create a framework for implementing remediation and restoration in Delaware watersheds impacted by toxic pollutants. The long term goals are to return these watersheds to fishable status in the shortest timeframe possible, control releases from remaining land-based sources and create innovative strategies to mitigate legacy contamination in sediment. The approach has earned unanimous support from DNREC management as a way to address multi-media, cross-programmatic issues. For more information, please contact John Cargill (SIRS) or Todd Keyser (WHS), both may be reached at (302) 395-2600; or Rick Greene (WAMS) at (302) 739-9939.

YouTube Video:  


WATAR Work Plan (2018-2022)
WATAR Work Plan (2012-2017)
EPA Manual for Watershed Cleanup
History of Delaware Fish Consumption Advisories
Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds

PCB Mass Loading from Hazardous Substance Release Sites to Surface Waters of Christina River Basin
Watershed Assessment Section 305(b) and 303(d) Reports
Delaware Watersheds
DNREC - Site Investigation and Restoration Section
DNREC - Watershed Assessment and Management Section

Watersheds in Delaware
Watersheds by County

Related Projects and Presentations
Toxic substances in Delaware surface water are largely a legacy issue.  Primary contaminants of concern are Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic substances (e.g., PCBs, dioxins and furans, mercury, and organochlorine pesticides). Primary media affected are fish, sediments and soils; the heaviest contamination is in areas of greatest industrial/ urban land use. Although the situation is improving and programs have been effective overall, problems remain, partly due to a compartmentalized approach. For more information, please visit: WATAR Presentation.

Mirror Lake Project
In November 2013, DNREC staff volunteers joined community volunteers, including AmeriCorps, Delaware's Boot Camp Program and residents from a local shelter, to help with an innovative remediation and restoration project at Mirror Lake in Dover. Mirror Lake’s health has been in decline for several decades due to contaminants in bottom sediments that accumu-late in fish, stormwater runoff and sedimentation, and invasive plants. The project, co-managed by DNREC’s Site Investigation and Restoration Section’s John Cargill and Watershed Assessment and Management Section’s Rick Greene, uses activated carbon – the same technology used in many water filters – to bind contaminants in lake sediments, rendering them unavailable for uptake by biological inhabitants. For more information on the technology and the joint DNREC-University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) partnership, please visit: Piloting New Technology at Mirror Lake.   

With the addition of a new intertidal wetland that was planted in Spring 2014, the combined remediation and restoration project has helped to improve the natural beauty of the lake, increase the lake’s ecological function, and helped make the fish there safer for human consumption. For more information on the new wetland, please visit:  "Restoring Mirror Lake" on pages 4-5 of Environmental Protection Matters. For more information on the Mirror Lake project and recent results, please visit: Mirror Lake Restoration Presentation

YouTube Videos:   Restoring Mirror LakeMirror Lake Planting and Mirror Lake Update

Little Mill Creek/Meco Drive Project
In Delaware, property owners along the Little Mill Creek in New Castle County can breathe a little easier now that the Phase II Flood Risk Mitigation project has been completed. This was a joint state and federal project in which several DNREC Divisions played a pivotal role. Little Mill Creek has a long history of damaging floods. For over 60 years, extensive flood damage has been attributed to development along the flood plain on Meco, Germay and Brookside Drives, all historically built on filled wetlands. During heavy rains, the run-off from paved areas flows into the Little Mill Creek, overtoppings its banks and flooding the surrounding area. In addition, a hazardous substance cleanup site, the Meco Drive Site, was contributing petroleum contamination and PCBs to the watershed. The coordinated project provided a longstanding solution to the flooding, as well as the contamination issue. For more information on the project, please visit: "The Big Clean at Little Mill Creek".

YouTube Videos:  Meco Ditch RemediationLittle Mill Creek Part 1  and  Little Mill Creek Part 2

PCB Mass Loading in Delaware is a DNREC collaborative study between DNREC's Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances' Site Investigation and Restoration Section (SIRS) and the Division of Water Resources' Watershed Assessment Branch (WAB).  It is a key and integral component of a much larger project that aims to link upland sources of PCBs with their primary impact in surrounding waterways.  In Delaware, as with many states, PCBs are a major cause for issuing fish consumption advisories. The project considers all sites known to be contaminated with PCBs in Delaware and the information gathered will allow DNREC to look at the cumulative impact of PCBs in the area. This brings a new and more holistic perspective to the problem, which in turn could lead to innovative management solutions. Looking at all sites at once will also allow DNREC to prioritize sites for remediation based on their relative impact. For more information on PCBs, please visit EPA's website:  PCBs

DNREC's goal is to systematically clean up these sites so these properties are useful and no longer release PCBs to area surface waters. In so doing, PCB levels in the fish will slowly improve over time and people will once again enjoy the health benefits of consuming fish.

Clean Water for Delaware's Future Is there a mechanism to fund more clean water projects in the future by combining them with other water quality projects across the state? There may be - please visit: Clean Water for Delaware's Future  and  Clean Water for Delaware's Future YouTube Video.

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