Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is responsible for the conservation of soil and water and the management of fish and wildlife, parks, water resources, air quality, and waste disposal. The preservation of wetlands and other fragile lands is a priority. State park acreage has risen from about 2,100 hectares (about 5,300 acres) in the early 1970s to more than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) in the mid-1990s. In the same period the area set aside to protect wildlife grew to 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres). The possible loss of its remaining open space is one of the state’s most serious environmental issues. Between 1995 and 2000, the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment remained stable, changing by less than half a percent.
In 1989 all three counties in Delaware failed to meet the federal standard for ozone, a major component of smog. By the early 1990s the number of days in which the Wilmington area failed to meet standards had been halved, while no days in excess of federal standards were reported in Sussex County. Other air pollutants were also being cleaned up.
Since 1970 lead has been virtually eliminated from the air, and levels of soot, dust, and other particulate matter have fallen. Concentrations of carbon monoxide, sulfur, and some organic chemicals have also declined.Because ozone is the pollutant of primary concern, the state requires vehicle emission inspections. To help reduce vehicle emissions, service stations are required to sell highly combustible gasoline in summer. In 1990 Delaware and five nearby states concluded an agreement to coordinate strategies for the control of ozone and certain other pollutants.
Delaware is the only state to operate a statewide solid waste management agency with powers to locate and run disposal facilities. This agency, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, was created in 1978. In 1988 the state revised its solid waste laws, emphasizing trash reduction and the cleaning up of problem landfills. By 1990, 50 such landfills had been closed and 25 of these had been cleaned up. All hazardous waste producers and treatment and disposal facilities must obtain permits and are inspected regularly. The generation and movement of hazardous waste in the state are carefully tracked. In 2008 Delaware had 14 hazardous waste sites on a federal priority list for cleanup because of their severity or proximity to people. Underground storage tanks, primarily for petroleum products such as gasoline, are also regulated. Many old tanks have been upgraded or removed. New tanks must meet stringent installation rules, particularly where the water table is close to the surface.
In the 1960s, the water quality in Delaware’s bays, streams, and wetlands was generally high. It declined in the 1970s, largely because of poorly treated sewage discharges and excessive sediments from erosion. As a result of such water pollution, the quality and quantity of the shellfish harvest were so poor by the late 1970s that the industry was all but destroyed. Other possible sources of water pollution are oil spills from tankers plying the Delaware River.
Beach preservation and wetlands protection are matters of concern. Beach management generally emphasizes sand replenishment. Fragile sand-dune ecosystems are protected from vehicular traffic. New state policies discourage the draining of wetlands. "Delaware" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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