Governor Carney and DNREC: Protect Our Health and Help Us Build a Park at the Rodney Reservoir

We have made tremendous progress in our collective goal of turning the Rodney Reservoir site into a nature- and community-focused park for all to enjoy. We need to continue to advocate to make sure the park is built and our community is protected during demolition.

The City of Wilmington has discovered hazardous chemicals like mercury, cobalt, and benzo(a)pyrene in the soils of the Rodney Reservoir. The City is planning to move forward with demolition in the coming weeks–without cleaning up the contamination–and without funding in place to transform the Rodney Reservoir into a public park.

According to the report on soil testing the City published in October, “The results indicate that:

  • Regulated substances in shallow soil pose an unacceptable cancer risk under the resident scenario.

  • Regulated substances in shallow and combined soil pose an unacceptable non-cancer risk under the resident child HI scenario.”

The City’s plan to demolish the Rodney Reservoir and disturb the soils there could put our health at risk. Demolition would take four months during which the hazardous chemicals that are currently bound up in the soil could be released in dust or water-run off.

Governor Carney and DNREC–the state’s version of the EPA–need to enforce existing state laws and require the City to clean up the hazardous chemicals before starting demolition. DNREC should require a site-specific Contaminated Materials Management Plan to make sure hazardous substances are carefully handled during all soil-disturbing activities. Further, given that the site has been deemed unsafe for residential use, the law should be followed and a deed restriction put in place before work proceeds.

This would also give time to complete a community-driven design and put funding in place to transform the Rodney Reservoir into a public park. Over 80 residents and local stakeholders partnered last June with faculty and students from the University of Delaware’s Living Lab Research Group to create a vision for a community-focused, nature-based park at the Rodney Reservoir. An even larger group of UD students in the Landscape Architecture program worked all fall to develop creative designs for the park that build on that vision. Also, the City launched a Working Group and hired a landscape architecture firm, Hinge Collective, to work with the community to complete a design. They conducted a successful set of public workshops in December and are actively working on the design for our park.

The City must not miss this opportunity to combine design and site work to build a future park in a way that minimizes the potential for exposure to hazardous substances, builds on the unique historical and topographical features of the site, and conserves precious resources.

Ask Governor Carney and DNREC to require the City to follow state laws to protect our health.

Working together, we can transform the Rodney Reservoir into a safe, community- and nature-focused public park that residents of all ages and abilities can enjoy.

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