By Terry Rogers
On Thursday, November 15, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing regarding a Conditional Use request from Clean Delaware LLC. The company plans to use farmland, owned by Lynn and Karen McColley, at the intersection of McColley and Shockley Roads, to apply “Class ‘B’ sanitary waste, non-sanitary food processing residuals and a small volume of potable water iron residuals.” Many residents who live or farm near this property attended in opposition to this request.
According to Jerry Desmond, General Manager at Clean Delaware, the company plans to use the Milford lands in addition to the three other locations in Sussex County, where Clean Delaware already holds Agricultural Utilization Permits. These sites are located in Milton, Harbeson and Ellendale. Desmond stated that Clean Delaware has been in operation for over 20 years and holds a current, valid Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) permit, dated January 1, 2012 with an expiration date of December 31, 2016.
Desmond also explained that there is a growing need for lands that are viable for the disposal of this type of waste. He stated that Clean Delaware does not handle raw or hazardous waste and the types of waste that will be disposed of on the McColley property include processed dry cake and liquid materials already treated at other facilities. Desmond testified that there had been an extensive site evaluation, performed by Leif Erickson of Atlantic Resource Management, and that the disposal of the waste would fall under very strict DNREC regulations.
According to Desmond, dump tractor-trailers pick up the dry cake waste from various locations, delivering it to the disposal area. After the dry waste is dumped, a technician is dispatched immediately to the site that spreads the waste with a front-end loader, and the waste is then disked into the soil, similar to other types of dry fertilizer. Liquid waste, which will consist of treated brewery, grease trap and municipality waste is placed in a liquid spreader similar to that used for liquid fertilizer and injected eight inches into the ground. All materials undergo extensive testing before they are disposed on land, according to DNREC regulations. Desmond also stated that the company will test neighboring wells as a benchmark and periodic testing conducted as a precautionary measure. Desmond also stated that no wells in residential areas surrounding the other three locations used by Clean Delaware have shown signs of contamination. In addition, he testified that tests of other lands have shown no increase in hazardous materials since the company has been using it for this process.
Leif Erickson of Atlantic Resource Management explained that his site evaluation concluded that the land consists of well-drained, fine-textured soil, with groundwater below the two feet required by DNREC, making the land a good option for this type of disposal.
Jim Fuqua, an attorney representing Clean Delaware, listed conditions requested by the company as part of the Conditional Use Permit. They included:
All activity on the site must follow DNREC regulations as indicated in the final permit issued by the agency.
The Conditional Use Permit remains in effect as long as the DNREC permit is valid.
All operations are limited to between 8 AM and 6 PM.
No waste shall be stored on the land for more than seven days.
Brian Churchill, an Environmental Scientist with DNREC spoke in support of the Conditional Use permit, stating that many municipalities and businesses currently use land application to treat this type of waste. In addition, Commission Chairman Robert Wheatley, stated that several letters of support of the permit had been received from towns and businesses in Sussex County, including the towns of Bridgeville, Lewes, Milton and Selbyville, as well as Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Ralph and Paul Adams Company, Perdue Farms and Allen Foods. However, Chairman Wheatley also said that he had received many emails and letters in opposition to the request.
Representative Harvey Kenton spoke at the hearing in opposition to the Conditional Use application. He indicated he had received many calls, emails and letters from residents in the area who were opposed to the request, and these concerns included traffic, noise, water contamination and run-off into the Mispillion River, which adjoins parts of the lands in question.
“The secretary of DNREC and I rode the entire Mispillion River recently because the area is being considered part of the eco-tourism in Milford. This could be a great thing for this area, generating millions in revenue,” Kenton explained. “To consider distributing any type of waste this close to the river could jeopardize the eco-system of the river and affect tourism in the area.”
Glenn Watson of Mills Road questioned the comments made by Fuqua regarding the condition that dry materials could remain on the land for seven days when, during Desmond’s testimony, he indicated the matter would be disked under the day it was dumped. Desmond stated that the plan is to disk the matter immediately, but there may be times when weather or other factors may not permit the process, so they were asking for the additional days should those circumstances arise.
George Jester of McColley Road, who lives directly across from the property, stated that his yard gets run-off from the farm during every rainstorm, and during the recent hurricane, had water at his front step. David Hitchens of Beaver Dam Road, provided the commission with a graphic showing how close the land was to the river, and pointing out an area of the property that is part of the floodplain.
“We have a responsibility to protect and preserve our eco-system,” Hitchens testified. He also showed a photo of flooding in downtown Milford during the recent storm, indicating that waste on this land could contaminate the city. Jim Hammond, who owns land adjoining property, also had concerns regarding the proximity of this land to the Mispillion River.
Commissioner Martin Ross, who has a background in agriculture, questioned Mr. Hammond regarding what makes Clean Delaware’s process any more harmful than normal farming, where organic fertilizer is often spread on fields.
“I am not a biologist, but I know that water runs off of the McColley land into a tributary that feeds the river, and onto my land,” Hammond stated. Chairman Wheatley then asked Erickson if they were aware that the property in question was part of the floodplain, and Erickson stated that they were, but that buffers required by the DNREC permit should prevent significant run-off.
Jason Donovan of Winding Woods Drive lives on property close to the McColley land. He stated that he visited a friend who lives near the Milton site, and says there was a significant fly problem in the area. Desmond testified that there is a different process conducted at the Milton facility that will not be performed on the McColley property, and that process may be the reason for the flies near Milton.
Alan Mills of Sapp Road, who farms property adjacent to the McColley land expressed concerns about growing consumable foods near the land. Desmond and Erickson had both testified that foods for human consumption, such as peas or lima beans, could not be grown on the land where waste was spread due to federal regulations. Although the rule does not apply to neighboring farms, Mills, who grows for Hanover Foods, was concerned that if there was run-off from the land, Hanover Foods may choose not to purchase his crops due to the potential for contamination. Chairman Wheatley asked if Mills had heard of this happening in other areas, and when Mills said he had not, the chairman indicated that it may need to be investigated before the permit was issued. Erickson also testified that in light of the residential concerns, he would now recommend a 100-foot buffer of grassy substance be planted around the treatment areas, as opposed to DNREC’s required 25 feet.
Neil Moore of Cedar Beach Road spoke about the potential problems to the infrastructure based on Desmond’s testimony that there could be an average of six trucks per day delivering to the site.
“Although six trucks a day does not sound like much, if you do the math, you find that means 144 trucks per year. In addition, these trucks must make a left-hand turn on a blind curve, in all kinds of weather, because of the location of the entrance to the McColley property,” Moore stated. “These roads were built in the mid-60’s and are not designed for this additional traffic. I own school buses, and can tell you these buses travel on roads that are already not in the best shape.” Mills, who also owns school buses, testified to his concern about the damage to the roads and the ability for them to handle this additional traffic.
The Planning and Zoning Commission plans to make a recommendation to Sussex County Council regarding the application. A public hearing before County Council is scheduled for December 11, and Chairman Wheatley encouraged those in attendance to voice their concerns to the council at that meeting.