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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Division of Watershed Stewardship : Conservation Programs

District Operations FAQ


What is a Debris Pit?

Debris Pits are created when solid waste - like land clearing debris (trees, brush and stumps) and construction debris (lumber, drywall, shingles, siding, etc.) are buried below ground. Historically, debris pits have been created during construction of residential developments to dispose of land clearing and construction debris. This became illegal in 1988. Current regulations require disposal of this waste in a permitted solid waste disposal facility. However, residential properties built in the 1960s, 70s and 80s still experience problems as a result of this past disposal practice.

How do I know if I have a Debris Pit on my property?

There are three things to look for:

  • Subsidence - an area of the yard that has settled and is lower in elevation than the surrounding area. The difference in elevation can be a few inches to a couple of feet depending on the amount of settlement that has occurred. Cracks in the soil at the edge of the subsided area may be visible.
  • Distressed vegetation - plants and grass will not grow or will grow poorly in a specific area, due to gases produced by the decomposing debris. While this is one possible indication of a debris pit, keep in mind that distressed vegetation can be caused by many other factors.
  • Sinkhole - an open hole or holes that suddenly appear in your yard. Sinkholes may appear small at the surface but can be cavernous below the ground. They should be approached with caution. As a safety precaution, sinkholes should be covered with plywood and children should be kept away until the cause of the sinkhole can be determined and the problem corrected.

Examples of Debris Pits
(click on a picture below to expand)

What should I do if I suspect a debris pit in my yard?

If you suspect you have a debris pit, DNREC’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation will assist you in determining the best course of action. Contact us at 302-834-5555, or write to 2430 Old County Road, Newark DE, 19702.

What is a Conservation District?

A Conservation District is a quasi-state governmental subdivision under the responsibility of DNREC. In cooperation with DNREC, USDA, DDA and NMC, the three county conservation districts develop comprehensive plans and carry out preventive and control measures to prevent erosion, floodwater and sediment damages, and to improve conservation, development and utilization of land and water resources, including the disposal of water and removal of sediment from waterways, lakes, ponds or other bodies of water.

How can I get involved in the Envirothon?

Many agencies, corporations, organizations, and individuals support the Delaware Envirothon. For more information about becoming a sponsor, contact the Delaware Envirothon (link to new Envirothon web page) or contact

The Envirothon is for students in grades 9-12, who comprise a team from their school or other youth organization. Advisors can be high school teachers, youth group leaders, or interested environmental professionals. Teams are composed of five students and two alternates. At the beginning of the school year, an orientation session is held for interested advisors.  

What is the Delaware Nonpoint Source Program?

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is defined as any pollution that originates from a diffuse source (like an open field or a road) and is transported to surface or ground waters through leaching or runoff. The Delaware Nonpoint Source Program addresses nonpoint source pollution through educational programs, publications, and partnerships with other Delaware organizations. The Delaware NPS Program also administers a competitive grant made possible through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, providing funding for projects designed to reduce NPS pollution.

What is the Ecological Restoration program? What kinds of activities are offered? How can I get involved?

The goal of the Ecological Restoration and Protection Team is to restore and protect streams, drainage ditches, wetlands, and riparian corridors in a coordinated effort to ensure that the maximum level of environmental results are being derived to enhance water quality, provide stream-bank protection and reduce erosion, and establish wildlife habitat.

The importance of stream and wetland restoration is readily accepted throughout the environmental community. However, the general public may not recognize the need for ecological restoration. Therefore, the Department has implemented an educational outreach program targeting a broad cross-section of citizens. This initiative is being accomplished by many Divisions in the Department that have created educational displays featured at public functions throughout Delaware. Additionally, students and teachers participate in the planting of native trees and shrubs in newly-constructed stream and wetland restoration projects. A fully-functioning ecosystem creates the perfect outdoor classroom to teach the fundamental principles of ecology and the importance of environmental stewardship. 

Planting events typically take place in the spring and fall. If interested, there may be an opportunity for you to participate in a project near you. For more information call 302-739-9921 or the Center for the Inland Bays at 302-645-7325.


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