Just how disgusting can the Markell administration get? Is there any bottom?

[CORRECTION:  We screwed up the numbers on expansion of the poultry industry in Delaware implies by the proposed new Allen Harim chicken plant in Millsboro.  See below for corrected text.]

Recently Green Delaware reported that we are following a number of dubious schemes in Delaware including three incinerators and “The Data Center.”  Add one more:

A proposed new chicken processing plant in Millsboro, at the contaminated former Vlasic/Pinnacle pickle packing plant.

This is being actively promoted by the usual set of part-of-the-problem Delaware pols and state agencies, and opposed by activated citizens organized as Protecting our Indian River (Stop the Allen Harim Chicken Plant from Further Contaminating Our Environment).

This site is an official “Brownfield,” so various steps get taken, pursuant to various laws and programs supposedly intended to encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites.  These include:

a “Brownfields Development Agreement” and a “Plan of Remedial Action.”  There is supposed to be public notice of, and public input into, these agreements and plans.

In practice, we generally get plans for NOT cleaning up the sites except very superficially, while transferring the environmental liabilities to the State (=us taxpayers and residents).  Exclusion of the public from meaningful participation has always been a key principle of the DNREC Site Investigation and Remediation Branch (SIRB).

I haven’t studied the technical documents in any detail, for reasons that should become obvious.

The DNREC published a “Public Notice” of “entering into negotiations for a Brownfields Development Agreement” on August 28, 2013.

Inspect a paper copy?

The notice says a copy of the BDA, already negotiated, is available for people to read in DNREC’s Lukens Drive, New Castle, offices, 93 miles away at the other end of the state.  Why not in the Millsboro Public library, 2.2 miles away?  Or even in DNREC’s Georgetown offices, 12 miles away?  Naa, any uppity citizens wanting to know whats up should not complain about driving 93 miles, 186 miles round trip,

What about links?

The first link given goes to a generic “environmental navigator” page that leads one around in circles.  Try it for yourself and maybe have better luck:


The second link goes to a “DocFinity” page asking for a username and password:


The third link is even more general:


OK, no links to the document(s), no real physical access to the documents.  What about talking to a human?

The “Project Manager” is listed as Morgan Price, (302)395-2600.  We left a message, but no response. Finding a page for SIRB, we find listed a “Manager,” Jim Poling, Jim.Poling@state.de.us, at the same number.  Mr. Poling was not available.  So we asked for the boss man, the “Administrator, Tim Ratsep, timothy.ratsep@state.de.us.  After a while someone came back on the line, indicating that Mr. Ratsep refused to speak to me, and offering me a number for the DNREC “Public Affairs” shop in Dover.

This must be what Jack Markell meant when he said he planned to run the most transparent administration ever:  Transparently contemptuous of the citizens who elected him?

But if you are on the other side of the fence things work a little differently.  Dan Shortridge, formerly a reporter, is “Chief of Community Relations” for the Delaware Department of Agriculture.  He’s drafted up at least one press release for Allen Harim Foods, the folks planning the new chicken plant.  (Harim is a Korean company that purchased the bankrupt Allen Family Foods in 2011.)  Allen Harim plans to “process” (kill) two million chickens a week in Millsboro.  If the plant ran without shutdowns, that would be 730 104 million chickens a year  Almost three-quarters of a billion birds.  The present production of chickens in Sussex County has been reported as around 210 million per year, so this implies something like a fifty-percent expansion of the industry.

Shortridge wrote “Per our discussion, following is a draft release about the Vlasic plant purchase for your use.  Areas highlighted in yellow need to be filled in… I’m happy to help in any way.  I will be sending along our local press contact lists shortly. …The media will have follow-up questions, some of which you will not wish to answer at this time; deflection answers will need to be developed.”  Read the whole thing.  Shortridge told us that writing press releases for private businesses is “not something we do with great regularity.”  He also said he hasn’t had any direct contact with community residents.

The Protecting our Indian River folks have dug out lots of interesting stuff on how Delaware pols and agencies are servicing Allen Harim.

Nowhere in any of it have I seen thought or mention of the bigger picture:

Delaware’s Inland Bays are in critical condition.  In many places the water is so polluted it’s not safe to stick a toe into it.  For decades DNREC and other agencies have been yakking about this problem and how to fix it.  Every analysis indicates that runoff from chicken houses, piles of “poultry litter,” and the excessive spreading of the litter on fields is a key cause of the pollution.  The way the chicken people use their political influence to evade responsibility is as big a problem.  What would be the impact of hundreds of a hundred million more chickens a year?  Would these all be from new production, or would some come from existing operations?   The general assumption seems to be that the new plant implies hundreds of new chicken houses.  Could this be a anything but a giant setback to water quality?  Does anybody care?  Would the chicken feed be intentionally laced with arsenic?  We are trying to ask the “Center for the Inland Bays,” charged with protecting same, for its views, but so far, no response.

Working in the mass-production chicken industry is among the most unhealthy, and lowest paid, of all industrial work.  Are these the sorts of jobs Delaware wants more of?  Would Delawareans want these jobs?  Lots of questions…..

Is there any fundamental difference between this chicken plant scheme and the reopening of the Delaware City Refinery, one of the worst polluters and fish-destroyers in North America, and the proposed new power plant in Newark, in a time of decreasing power demand and intense need to curb fossil fuel use?  Probably not.  They all reflect the same unwise, short-term thinking, and the same profound disregard for, democracy, public welfare and environmental/climate concerns.

This is no path to sustainable prosperity for Delaware.

One difference is that in Newark, at least, local legislators John Kowalko and, to a lesser extent, Paul Baumbach, are providing some support and leadership to their constituents..  The Millsboro area is represented by Sen. Gerald W. Hocker and Rep. John C. Atkins.  These are among the most special-interest-serving pols in Delaware and there is little chance of them helping their people.

Nancy Willing, in her Delaware Way blog, has more information.

Closing with this:

Community Involvement Advisory Council sets public workshop
Thursday, Nov. 21 in Millsboro on development of Vlasic Pickle/Pinnacle site


DOVER (Nov. 12, 2013) The Community Involvement Advisory Council (CIAC) will hold a public workshop Thursday, Nov. 21, on the potential redevelopment of the former Vlasic Pickle site at 29984 Pinnacle Way in Dagsboro. The workshop is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. at the Millsboro Town Hall, 322 Wilson Highway, Millsboro, DE 19966.

Allen M. Harim Foods has entered into a brownfields development  agreement (BDA) with DNREC, with the intent of purchasing the site and converting the facility to a poultry processing plant. A BDA is an agreement between DNREC and a brownfields developer with respect to a Certified Brownfields Site that sets forth a scope of work and remedial activities during development of the site. A public hearing on the brownfields development agreement and a proposed plan of remediation by DNREC’s Site Investigation and Restoration Section is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Millsboro Fire Hall, 109 E. State Street, Millsboro, DE 19966, starting at 6 p.m.

The public workshop will afford concerned residents an opportunity to understand environmental issues being addressed by DNREC in the event that the former Vlasic Pickle site is acquired by Allen M. Harim Foods and converted to a poultry processing plant.

The workshop is the Community Involvement Advisory Council’s response to public comments on the brownfields development agreement. DNREC subject matter experts will be present at the workshop to address specific questions about the site. The Department of Health and Social Services’ Office of Drinking Water (ODW) will also be present to discuss surrounding community drinking water systems to the Vlasic/Pinnacle site.

A panel of subject matter experts will provide an overview of the permitting processes, and also will explain the public health and environmental protection provided by DNREC’s permitting programs. DNREC and ODW staff will be available for questions at poster stations located throughout the hall. Subject matter experts will reconvene for a question-and-answer session at the close of the workshop.

The CIAC was established in 2001, under Senate Bill 33 to enable DNREC to interact with communities in the best possible manner. The 11 member body is appointed by the Governor to advise the DNREC Secretary on matters such as the relationships and interactions between the Department and communities throughout the state. In addition to its primary charge of assuring that no community is disparately affected by environmental impacts, the CIAC is also responsible for increasing community participation and the flow of information between communities and the Department.

For more information, please contact James Brunswick, DNREC community ombudsman, or Robert Newsome, Site Investigation and Restoration Section public information officer, at 302-739-9000.
Green Delaware has previously written about this “Community Manipulation Council” and it’s real role in manipulating, deceiving, and buying off community concerns.  On June 8, 2010, we reported:

“DNREC’s “Community Involvement Advisory Council” gives its money to the likes of incinerator-promoting “Clean Air Council” and the multi-billion dollar “Nature Conservancy,” closely tied to British Petroleum,–and in Delaware to DuPont and Delmarva Power.”

But this is the first time, to my knowledge, that the Council has directly and publicly fronted for one of Markell’s “economic development” schemes.  We asked Mr. Brunswick if opposing points of view would have a place on the panel and the answer, of course, was “no.”

The ethical standards prevailing in Delaware’s government continue to decline.


Call Governor Jack Markell, jack.markell@state.de.us, 302.577.3210
DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara collin.omara@state.de.us, 302.739.9000
Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee, edwin.kee@state.de.us, 302.698.4501

Ask them to stop obstructing public access to information.

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