by Terry Rogers
Consuelo McGowan spent time on New Hope Road in a previous job with the State of Delaware. As a case worker who was assigned to investigate cases of child abuse and neglect, McGowan occasionally had to remove children from homes in the neighborhood. Today, however, she is spending her days working to improve the lives of those who live in the small development near Ellendale.
“When I was working as a case worker, I never really thought about the water in these places,” McGowan said. “I started working for Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, or SERCAP, in 2018 and learned how little health, clean water these people had. Their wells are very high in nitrates, there is an awful smell and a high iron content. The water is orange so they cannot drink it or wash their clothes in it. Many of them spend a lot of money at laundromats to wash their clothes because they simply cannot wash them at home.”
Last year, the Town of Ellendale passed a referendum to install a public water system as poor water quality is an issue throughout the town. McGowan explained that it could take years before the system reaches the New Hope development.
“When COVID-19 first hit, everyone was saying “wash your hands” to protect yourself against the virus,” McGowan said. “I had been traveling around the area with Representative Bryan Shupe testing water and handing out free test kits. I knew these people simply did not have a way to wash their hands to prevent catching the virus. I decided I needed to do something. I was ready to go to the grocery store and buy as much bottled water as I could to help them. I reached out to Crystal Springs to see how they could help, and, through the generosity of a private donor, they were able to deliver five-gallon jugs and a pump for each of the homes.”
The first of the jugs were delivered on Friday May 1 and the remainder of them will arrive on M ay 18. The company is replenishing the jugs monthly at no cost to residents until the town water system can be connected.
“At first, the residents were skeptical,” McGowan said. “Some knew me from my previous life and were a bit wary. They had also been promised clean water for many years. Some of them were angry and did not believe it would actually happen. Once they established that I was here to help, they have become a lot more trusting. We initially considered placing water coolers inside each home but some of them are in such poor condition, the floors would not support the weight of a water cooler.”
McGowan hopes to bring more than just clean water to the residents of New Hope Road. She is working with the landlords who are renting properties in the development to bring the homes up to code. McGowan also provided residents with masks and gloves because many of them did not have any method for protecting themselves. She learned that one of the homes in the development had someone who was quarantined, and another resident’s aunt had been diagnosed with the virus.
“We just want to improve the living conditions of those who live in the area,” McGowan said. “We started with clean water, an initiative Representative Shupe began when he took office and we are simply moving up from there in an effort to make the lives of those who live here better.”