Donovan Smith Community in Lewes Closer to Municipal Water & Sewer

Delaware state agencies today officially moved to connect the Donovan Smith community in Lewes to municipal water and sewer, which is the pilot project of the Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities established by Gov. John Carney.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed today by the secretaries of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to authorize a $2.74 million loan to the Lewes Board of Public Works (Lewes BPW) for connecting the Donovan Smith manufactured home community into Lewes’ central sewer system, and a $2.87 million loan to Lewes BPW for connecting the community to the Lewes municipal water system.

The projects will be funded by loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). Under the terms of the MOU, once construction is complete, the loans will be forgiven. While the MOU and other legal documents for the transaction must still be signed by Lewes BPW, the city of Lewes, the community owner Donovan-Smith MHP, LLC and the community owner’s loan servicer, respectively, negotiations among all parties over the last several months have been finalized and all parties are expected to fully execute the legal documents in the coming days.

The Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities, or CWI, is administered by DNREC and was proposed by Gov. Carney to protect public health and minimize environmental hazards and risk for all Delawareans.

“Through the Governor’s Clean Water Initiative, state agencies – particularly DHSS Division of Public Health and DNREC – are in a stronger position to protect, uplift and enhance the standing of Delawareans who until now might have been thwarted by circumstances, costs or lack of community governance structure hampering their rights to safe drinking water and proper wastewater treatment,” DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin said.

The DWSRF, within DHSS, provides support to Delaware drinking water systems through the Disadvantaged Community Subsidy program. This program ensures that DWSRF loans can be forgiven for projects benefiting the most vulnerable communities. Forgiveness of these loans ensures safe drinking water is provided without creating substantial burden on household budgets. 

“We are grateful to the Governor, DNREC, the Division of Public Health and all of the entities involved in this clean water initiative benefiting this Lewes community,” DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik said. “Nothing is more inherently important to someone’s health than having clean water to drink and a safe sewer system.”

This CWI pilot project follows DNREC’s citation of the community’s owner twice in the last year with DNREC notices of violations for unsanitary conditions from its failing septic system that posed a threat to residents’ public health and safety.

Among other benefits to the community stemming from this pilot project, under the terms of the transaction, for a period of 20 years, the community owner (not the residents) will bear all of the community’s water and sewer utility costs and current community residents will be insulated from rent increases by the community owner that are based on the owner’s expenses for the community’s utility charges and the arising from installation of the water and sewer.

Construction on the sewer connection project is expected to begin in the first half of 2022, after the project is bid by the Lewes BPW. The CWI will facilitate the installation of approximately 5,000 feet of sewer main (connected into the existing Lewes sewer collection system on Donovan Road), 23 manholes, and approximately 1,500 feet of house sewer services with cleanouts, sewer main and service trench restoration, for 88 existing mobile home units within the Donovan Smith community. Installation of the Lewes BPW public sewer system will eliminate the failing onsite community systems and provide a safer, more sustainable sewage collection and treatment alternative.

The DWSRF-supported component of the pilot project calls for replacing an aging water system sited under the community’s mobile homes and through narrow spaces between the homes. Lewes BPW will install nearly 1,000 feet of 12-inch main to connect to an existing main, and 4,500 feet of internal main within the park, along with meters, service lines, valves, and fire hydrants inside the Donovan Smith community. All this – under the management of DHSS’ Division of Public Health, Health Systems Protection section – reduces potential for system contamination, provides reliable water service to the community and provides fire protection capability to the community.

More information about the Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities can be found at More information on the Disadvantaged Community Subsidy and the DWSRF is available on the DHSS website.