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After more than six years of struggling, the residents of Selbyville, Del., are finally enjoying what many of us take for granted — clean drinking water. In 2009, the town’s drinking water supply tested positive for Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), a common fuel additive used prior to 2005 to reduce smog. To combat the problem, two new wells were installed, but one of those immediately tested positive for MTBE. The presence of this contaminant in drinking water is not well studied, but data supports the conclusion that MTBE in high doses is a potential human carcinogen. Eventually, six of the town’s seven wells were impacted.

Unsure of the contaminant source, Selbyville officials began searching for a new solution. With assistance from Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc. (DBF), an upgrade to the existing water system was designed with many factors in mind:

  • continued use of the existing water treatment facility during construction,
  • elimination of contaminants,
  • efficiency,
  • architectural aesthetics, and
  • project funding.

Initial funding for the upgrade came in the form of a low-interest loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). However, because the new system was able to surpass the required goals, the $2.75 million loan would not have to be repaid. Additional grants came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program and Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

DBF also addressed architectural challenges to balance the aesthetics of installing the new water treatment facility in the center of the town’s historic district.

Serving as an integral part in improving water quality for the residents of the Town of Selbyville, DBF provided full-service surveying, architectural, and engineering services for the water treatment facility upgrade. The supplementary system consists of two 30-foot-tall aeration towers where water flows downward while air flows upward. Volatile contaminants such as MTBE evaporate when they touch the air and, as a result, are removed from the water. Upon construction completion, the valve to the new water system was opened and the treatment process was successfully placed online.

“Our architectural and engineering team worked seamlessly throughout the project,” said DBF Principal Jason Loar, P.E. “When our engineering team sized the aerators to 30 feet tall, the building’s aesthetics became a challenge. DBF’s architecture team was able to take the building requirements and transform it into a unique building design inspired by the Eastern Shore’s historic grain barns.”

The firm’s design team also addressed architectural challenges to balance the aesthetics of installing the new facility in the center of the town’s historic district. Working with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure compliance with regulations, DBF’s design team also received input from the town council following its review of color renderings for the building options.

Construction of the new system was completed on-schedule and on-budget, and the entire project complied with EPA’s American Iron and Steel Requirements (AIS). As a direct result of the town officials’ early acknowledgment of well contamination combined with their determined persistence in finding a successful resolution, MTBE presence in the water system now tests well below the EPA limits.

Information provided by Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc. (www.dbfinc.com), a full-service architectural, engineering, and surveying firm.