Help stop the big stink….

2-stinky1448 Many know that a public hearing was held on August 28, about the continued operation of the Peninsula Composting facility in South Wilmington.  This facility has been causing major odor problems and many elected officials, including the Mayor of Wilmington, the New Castle County Executive, and members of the Delaware General Assembly, called for Peninsula Composting to be shut down.  Surrounding communities apparently regret the “Community Benefits Agreement” they signed and want the facility closed.

Green Delaware has some history with composting in general and Peninsula Composting in particular.  Composting–unlike, say, incineration–is in general a desirable way to manage some wastes.  But, the devil is in the details and every proposal needs to be considered on it’s own merits.  It was easy to predict problems with Peninsula Composting and we did.

In the past few days we have studied the track record of Peninsula Composting–to the extent the State has been willing and able to provide it–and have talked with various players.  We’ve been trying to determine whether the facility could be operated without causing a nuisance.  We have concluded that the chance of this happening is low; if Peninsula Composting stays in operation people will continue to be stunk out of their homes.  Therefore, the facility needs to be shut down.

Your voice is needed.  September 10th is the last official day for public comments–but send them late if necessary.  (We’ve been waiting for more info but time is running out.) Please send comments to:
Bob Haynes, Hearing Officer <Robert.Haynes@state.de.us>, Dave Small, DNREC Secretary <David.Small@state.de.us>, Governor Jack Markell <jack.markell@state.de.us>, the EPA <garvin.shawn@epa.gov>, your state Senator and Representative, and please copy Green Delaware <alan@greendel.org>.

Here are the comments Green Delaware submitted.  We want the public comment period extended and the facility shut down.  Feel free to use them as a resource, or, you can just say you agree with the Green Delaware’s comments.  A blog post–in progress–with more information is here.

Green Delaware’s comments on Peninsula Composting

Green Delaware
Alan Muller, Executive Director
Box 69. One Stewart Street
Port Penn, DE 19731 USA
cell 302.299.6783
greendel@dca.net
www.greendel.org

September 10, 2014

Mr, Robert Haynes, Hearing Officer
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
via email

Regarding:  Peninsula Composting–Renewal, or not, of “Beneficial Use Determination”

Dear Mr. Haynes:

Green Delaware recommends, reluctantly, that the Beneficial Use Determination and other approvals for Peninsula Composting (sometimes known as the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center, WORC) not be renewed, and that the facility be required to close. Continue reading

Peninsula Composting and composting in general

[Note:  This post is a work in progress because we are waiting for the DNREC to provide transcripts and other requested documents.]

Composting is a good thing.  It’s the best way to handle the “organic” materials that make up around 30 percent of “municipal solid waste” (garbage).  “Compost” is very useful in farming and gardening.

But composting, like everything else, has to be done right.  It is essentially a controlled form or rotting.   Done wrong, it can stink, cause air and water pollution, drive neighbors out of their homes.

Backyard or neighborhood composting doesn’t usually cause problems.  Many communities compost yard waste–grass clippings, etc, and this doesn’t usually cause problems.

Composting food waste is manageable but does have more tendency to cause odors and attract rodents, especially if animal parts are involved.

When sewage sludge is added to the mix, things obviously become even more difficult.

Trying to compost mixed garbage is always a disaster.

Composting is regulated by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).  There are approximately ___ permitted composting operations in Delaware.

Delaware had one big, bad experience with composting by the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA, Green Delaware has often called it the “Dirty Authority”) at Pigeon Point, just south of Wilmington.  In the 1980s the DSWA started up a large composting operation as part of an elaborate garbage processing operation including an incinerator.  The feed to the composting operation reportedly included 275 tons per day of partially separated garbage and 250 tons per day of City of Wilmington sewage sludge.  It was a disaster, stinking people out of their homes.  The compost was unusable as it contained toxic PCBs.

This operation, along with the rest of the processing operations, were eventually shut down after years of community complaints.

For some background on the Dirty Authority see this article from 1998:  “Misguided Delaware Solid Waste Authority Embarrasses State, Harms Communities, Doesn’t Recycle our Trash.”

Jump to 2007 and a proposal for a 700 ton per day composting in South Wilmington.  There was lots of cheerleading for this and, as is often the case, Green Delaware stood mostly alone in raising concerns.  Some of these:

o     It would be a large operation that would bring hundreds of tons per day of often-rotten food waste from surrounding states; a much larger operation than needed to meet Delaware needs.  Because of the distances, food waste would have a chance to get stinky before it even entered the composting process;

o     It would be located in a classic “environmental justice” (lower income, people of color) community already burdened by many health and environmental problems;

o     Some of those involved had a history of causing environmental problems.

See this 2007 Wilmington News Journal article: “Recycling company wants to compost out-of-state food waste near Wilmington

The Southbridge Civic Association signed a “Community Benefits Agreement” with the promoters.  We are waiting for a copy, but a description of it is available in this presentation.

Marvin Thomas, former President of the Southbridge Civic Association, said there were few complaints during the first couple of years of operations, but many since.  He said the Civic Association and surrounding communities are united in their desire that Peninsula Composting be shut down.  He indicated that communities have not recently sought to implement other parts of the agreement because they are at odds with Peninsula.  He also indicated that many community residents are not interested in working there because of poor working conditions and low pay.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014, is a bad air day in Delaware

All sorts of bad air on Wednesday, Aug 26th:

Delaware Department of Ag violating law to protect chicken scam?

 New York City garbage going to Chester, PA, via Elsmere, DE?

More power lines to be hung up over the Delaware River?

Utility ripoffs in general and in particular….

The DNREC has announced an “air quality action day,” saying that ozone is forecast to be in the Code Orange range and particles are forecast to be in the Code Yellow range.

The official forecasting system does not consider the combined effect of multiple pollutants, but Green Delaware does, and we say this is a Code Red (unhealthy for everybody) day. Continue reading

Tuesday: Breathe with care in Delaware …..(etc)

Bad Air

Tuesday August 5, 2014 is an official Code Orange “air quality action day” in Delaware.  The DNREC says: “A Code Orange air quality forecast for ozone is a level of pollution that can be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as young children, the elderly, and those with heart and/or respiratory conditions. Such persons should limit outdoor activities, especially those that require a high level of exertion.”

Continue reading

Details on oil trains running through Minnesota on their way to Delaware and other places

The linked reports were provided to the State of Minnesota pursuant to an order from the US Department of Transportation.   The state was very reluctant to release the info but eventually did under pressure.  Newspaper articleMinnesota crossed by 50 oil trains a week.”

Notice how VERY anxious the railroads seem to prevent this information from being released to the public. Continue reading

“Take a few minutes and read the actual Declaration of Independence.”

[Note:  This was originally published on July 4, 2003.]

The following was Green Delaware’s 2002 Fourth of July message. We don’t
normally resend material, but in the past year a climate of repression has
arisen that is reminiscent of the “Palmer Raids” of 1918-1921, justified by
fear of “communism.” The parallels are worthy of thought: Continue reading

Object to Censorship at “Delaware City Day”

Delaware City, whatever it’s other charms, has been, pathetically, a “company town.”  The Company being whatever is the current owner of the Delaware City Refinery.  The Refinery has had perhaps a half-dozen owners since opening in 1957, none seeming nastier or more aggressive that the present PBF Energy. Continue reading

Code Orange bad air day in Delaware (July 12, 2014)

The air quality forecast has worsened.  Officially:  Code Orange on Saturday, Code Yellow through Monday.

In my view Code Orange for ozone plus Code Yellow for particles = Code Red (unhealthy for everybody).

Fortunately, the temperature/humidity/pollen forecasts are not too bad.  But this air quality can still make you sick, especially, if you are young, old, or addicted to breathing.  Take it easy.

Some background info and commentary.

Official forecast below:

From: Penn State Air Quality Forecast Office <psaqfo@psu.edu>

State of Delaware Air Quality Forecast for:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

_________________________________________________________
Ozone (O3): CODE ORANGE (UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS)

Fine Particles (PM2.5): CODE YELLOW (MODERATE)

_________________________________________________________

Discussion:

Saturday will be an Air Quality Action Day for ozone for Delaware.  Surface stagnation overnight and through the morning will allow pollutants to accumulate, similar to conditions on Friday.  Mostly sunny skies, light winds, and recirculating flow aloft will promote rapid ozone formation in the afternoon, with daily concentrations reaching the Code Orange range, primarily in northern Delaware.  Particles will also respond to the light winds by rising into the low Moderate range.

A warm front will lift over the region from the south on Sunday, resulting in warm and humid conditions.  Warm air arriving aloft will limit vertical mixing, which will help to keep particles in the Moderate range.  Increasing clouds in the afternoon and sustained southerly surface winds, along with the chance for scattered showers, will limit ozone to the Good/Moderate threshold.  Monday will be hot and humid, with widespread afternoon clouds and precipitation as a cold front slowly approaches from the west.  Ozone will be in the upper Good range, while particle will linger in the Moderate range in the humid air mass.

Huff/Catena/Herdt

Penn State Air Quality Forecast Office (PSAQFO)
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Meteorology
Website: http://psaqfo.psu.edu/
Email: psaqfo@psu.edu

Good News: “The Data Center” (power plant) apparently dead

Gas attack: U of Delaware kills $1 billion data center/power plant.”

“The Data Center” was a scam so blatant, so absurd, that it should never have gotten any traction at all.

That it did is a sad commentary on the intellectual and ethical emptiness of Delaware’s “Chamber of Commerce” business community, and, of course, the administration of Gov. Jack Markell.  The so called “Delaware Economic Development Office,”especially, demonstrates a consistent and predictable idiocy backed up by secrecy and dishonesty.

Per usual in Delaware, the scam was assembled by various parties, including the Markell administration, the University of Delaware, and the City of Newark, before the public was given notice.  Then, it was rolled out as a done deal.  Thankfully, it apparently has been undone.  (Note that the objection is mostly to the power plant, not to a data center as such.)

Aside from the obvious lie of saying a 278 megawatt gas-burning power plant was “auxiliary” to a data center, consider the un wisdom, or the symbolism, of a large new fossil-fuel power plant in a state so vulnerable to the effects of climate change that much of it will soon enough be under water.

Delaware has the lowest mean elevation of any state at 60 ft above sea level.   (Florida and Louisiana are next at 100 ft.)  The mean elevation of Kent County is only 36 feet.  Current measured sea level rise is around 3.4 mm per year and speeding up–it varies from place to place–and almost every new official prediction of sea level rise is higher than the last one.  See Waters rising … Delaware going away?”

It is long past time to be shutting down the the existing combustion power plants that drive climate change and sea level rise, far less a time to be building new ones.  (The total generating capacity in Delaware is on the order of 3300 megawatts.)

In the face of this, Markell has allowed investment in wind, solar, and energy efficiency to mostly come to a stop–suiting the interests of Delmarva Power–while embracing various schemes for burning more natural gas.

(All considered, it appears that the climate change impact of natural gas is at least as high as coal, because of the unburned methane emissions.)

Residents of the City of Newark, and faculty and students of the University of Delaware, came to life to oppose a scam in which the City and the administration of the U of D were deeply involved.  In recent decades it has been rare to see signs of political life in Newark, but self-interest does have an energizing effect.  See Newark Residents Against the Power Plant.

The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club (especially Amy Roe) and the Delaware Audubon Society contributed.

But the real hero of this fight, in my opinion, is Rep. John Kowalko of Newark.  Kowalko relentlessly sought accurate information from various parties so he could represent the true interests of his constituents.  It doesn’t take a lot of courage for professors or environmentalists to oppose a power plant, but Kowalko, a longtime union person, took a lot of heat from any-job-at-any-cost Delaware union officials.

Kowalko, as he usually does, behaved with gumption, integrity, and right-on values.   Consider the oath of office that Delaware’s Constitution prescribes for public officials:

“I, (name) , do proudly swear (or affirm) to carry out the responsibilities of the office of

(name of office) to the best of my ability, freely acknowledging that the powers of this office flow from the people I am privileged to represent. I further swear (or affirm) always to place the public interests above any special or personal interests, and to respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware. In doing so I will always uphold and defend the Constitutions of my Country and my State, so help me God.”  [emphasis added by Muller]

How many legislators take their oath seriously?  John Kowalko is one who clearly does.  (I don’t know what role has been played by Senators representing the area.)

Compare the “Data Center” fight with the fight of people around Millsboro against a giant Korean chicken-killing plant, another Markell project just as absurd and undesirable.  See “ Just how disgusting can the Markell administration get? Is there any bottom?”  That area is represented by Gerald W. Hocker and John C. Atkins, two of the most special-interest-serving legislators in Delaware.  (Atkins has been in the news recently –but not for helping his constituents!–, and Green Delaware has featured him before.)

Friday and Saturday are forecast to be Code Yellow bad air days in Delaware for ozone.  Saturday is also Code Yellow for particles.  Some discussion of the meaning of this is here.