Monthly Archives: May 2019

Green Delaware comments to Hearing Officer in re Waste Management dump “vertical expansion”

Lisa Vest, Hearing Officer
DNREC

Dear Lisa:

Here are some thoughts from us.  I would appreciate if these were read out at the hearing this evening.

This is a classic Environmental Injustice” situation yet the DNREC, which has had a “community ombudsman” for around twenty years, has not factored environmental justice considerations into permitting decisions in a substantive way.  Therefore it seems to me that the DNREC simply does not have in place the capability to make decisions regarding such an application and as such it should not be entertained.  This is a fundamental deficiency in the Regulations.

Both of the nearby-community organizations which have provided written support for the project state that they are receiving free services and/or cash from the applicant.  In other contexts this would be regarded as bribery.  At the least, the opinions expressed by these organizations should be given little weight.

The history of this dump indicates that it was previously used as a sand and/or gravel pit.  Thus we have unlined cells sitting in (very likely) hydraulic communication with aquifers used for water supply.  This is a situation that has been common in Delaware and has predictable and ultimately harmful and expensive consequences.  It is likely that the proposed addition of 60 feet of additional overburden would have the effect of pushing interstitial (pore) liquids into the underlying aquifers and further contaminating groundwater.  This along would indicate rejection of the proposal.

“The DRPI Landfill property was previously operated as a sand and gravel pit from about 1954 until about 1982. During that period, sand and gravel of the underlying Columbia Formation were excavated to approximately the top of the Potomac Formation.” (VIII-3)

In odd terminology, applicants describe membranes installed on top of existing deposits as “liners.”  This seems a terminological way of converting unlined cells into “lined” cells.  The authors should know the difference between a cap and a liner.

“Cells 1, 2, and 3 were unlined but are currently being lined with overlay liner.” (VIII-3)

“the construction of liner [sic] system over previously unlined waste materials will serve to minimize many potential long-term impacts to human health and the environment.” (VIII-4)

 At VIII-10, it is indicated that within 1/4 mile (of the property  boundary?) “A total of 140 wells were identified of which 88 are active, pending, or completed (i.e., 52 are abandoned, expired or voided).”  88 active wells within 1/4 mile!  All of  these wells should be tested and their use determined.

At the very least, the Division of Public Health (Safe Drinking Water Act  program) and  the operators of production wells in the area should be asked to agree in writing that the are not concerned about negative impacts, and the applicant should be required to demonstrate financial responsibility for possible negative impacts.

The “compliance history” summary (only from January 1, 2014 to January 23, 2019) shows 12 citations but zero penalties.  This does not suggest significant or adequate enforcement history.

The Environmental Impact Assessment, ag page VIII-1, states:

“This EAR was prepared by Geosyntec Consultants in Columbia, Maryland in 2004, revised in 2005 as part of the Cell 6 Expansion. The current EAR (Version 3) is largely unchanged except as it relates to the vertical expansion and slightly revised disposal footprint near the entrance that provided more buffer to neighboring residents.”

Thus it appears that the work is fifteen years old and may not reflect current conditions and current understanding of the hydrology of the area.

Again, from page VIII-2:

“To complete this evaluation, Geosyntec supplemented historical information with data collected during: (i) a site reconnaissance performed on 25 February 2004; (ii) interviews with personsknowledgeable about the DRPI Landfill and its operations; (iii) correspondence with federal, state, and local officials; and (iv) reviews of applicable site records provided by DRPI, permits, and published literature.”

So it appears that the authors of the “report,” if not the entire application, have not visited the site in over fifteen years.

Wetlands on the site are waved off as “isolated wet areas dominated mainly by Phragmites”.

The literature on the health impacts of air pollution is expanding very rapidly.  For example:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/may/17/air-pollution-may-be-damaging-every-organ-and-cell-in-the-body-finds-global-review

It is highly likely that the health of residents in the area of the Waste Management dump is impacted by regulated air pollutants.  Available information indicates that cancer rates and cardiovascular ilnesses in the area are elevated.  A Health Impact Analysis  pursuant to  CDC guidelines should be performed, considering the alternatives of the proposed expansion vs allowing the dump to close when it reaches its presently permitted elevations (or before!).  In doing this, fugitive emissions should be fully considered including traffic emissions.

OK, I could go on for a long time with concerns and objections, but I hope these are enough to make a point:  That the request permit modification should  be denied.

Respectfully submitted,

[signed]

Alan Muller
Executive Director, Green Delaware

Piling it higher and deeper in Delaware?

Pile it higher and deeper in Minquadale?

Delaware’s “Trump Dump” to be expanded?
 Waste Management (WMI) wants to raise it’s Delaware dump to 190 feet high, from the present height limit of 130 feet.  The dump is called Delaware Recyclable Products, Inc. (DRPI) but it’s purely a dump.  There is no recycling there.

But it’s a big dump:  According to the application, the “maximum daily tonnage” expected is 2,400 tons.  The dump covers about 120 acres.  According to the application the present capacity remaining (as of 2013) is 1.8 million cubic yards and the proposed expansion would increase that to 10.2 million yards and 21 years of dumping.  (One of the oddities of the dumping business is that waste capacity is sold by weight (tons) but dumps fill up, obviously, by volume (cubic yards), so the density of the waste matters.)

Waste Management is one of the most notorious corporations in the United States, and one of the largest waste operators, with 293 active dumps in 2017 (numbers from different sources vary).  WMI is also involved in recycling and burning, but is fundamentally a dump company.

Aside from problems caused by dumps themselves, WMI threatens communities in a couple of basic ways: WMI’s corporate resources are huge, and it can afford to low-ball bids for waste services, forcing locally owned operators to sell out or shut down.  Then, without meaningful competition, costs tend to zoom.  Using these tactics has enabled WMI to take over or shut down hundreds of locally owned and municipal operators. WMI knows a lot about hauling and dumping waste, but its greatest depth of expertise lies in lobbying and buying off elected officials and community organizations. Consider:

Some years ago legislation was introduced in response to WMIs longstanding desire to expand the dump (undated newsletter from House Democratic Caucus):

“DOVER � Delaware communities won’t have to worry about landfillss filled with industrial and construction waste towering over them under legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader David McBride and Rep. James “JJ” Johnson.” [Johnson has retired.  The present representative of the area is Franklin D. Cooke, who has expressed strong opposition to the dump expansion.]

“McBride, D-Hawks Nest, and Johnson, D-Jefferson Farms, are introducing the bill to address concerns about proposed plans to increase the height of Delaware Recyclable Products Inc.’s New Castle landfill. The New Castle facility is the only Delaware landfill permitted as an industrial and construction waste site.”

“”This issue is of great concern to our constituents,” said McBride, a longtime leader on environmental policy in the First State. “But this goes beyond our community. Landfills are complex engineering projects, and as you build them higher and higher, you increase the risks of foundation failures and the groundwater contamination that can go with it. That’s a bad problem anywhere, but it’s an especially dangerous situation in urban areas.”” [McBride is a civil engineer.]

“David Trincia, president of the Minquadale Civic Association, lives near the landfill and said the legislators are doing the right thing with their bill. That’s because, he says, increasing the landfill’s height as the company is proposing would block airflow into the community and would add to problems of dust, noise and smells the area already has to live with.”

“It probably shouldn’t have been built this close to a community in the first place, but that’s done. We have some of the highest cancer rates in the state and breathing in all that dust, dirt and trash probably doesn’t help,” he said. “This proposal is a step forward not just for keeping landfills at bay, not just for Minquadale, but for all communities.””

The proposal would restrict industrial landfill heights to 130 feet, the present permitted height of the WMI Minquadale dump.

Jump ahead to July of 2008, where Mr. Trincia, who has headed the Minquadale Civic Association for more than thirty years. wrote to the DNREC:

“The officers and members of the Minquadale Civic Association respectfully request your prompt review and approval of DRPI Landfill’s vertical expansion application submitted in July 2018.”

“The Landfill also has regularly supported our association and offers our neighbors free waste container and disposal services….”

“The Association’s support for the DRPI Landfill’s vertical expansion is continent upon the parties reaching a finalized Neighboring Community Agreement ….”

(The entire letter, along with hundreds of pages of material, is posted here on the DNREC webside.)

Jump ahead ten months to today:   We spoke to Mr. Trincia who said the Agreement was not finalized and he could not provide Green Delaware with a copy.  He said WMI gives money to his Association but he did not want to say how much.

Another letter of support with the same date came from Scott Clemens, President of the Minquadale Village Home Owners Association.  Minquadale Village is “a manufactured home park a short distance from the landfill.”  Clemens wrote:  “The Board of Directors and membership … wish to express our support for DRPI’s vertical expansion proposal.  “DRPI team members frequently attend our Association meetings … The Landfill also provides park residents with free roll-off container, transport, and disposal services.”

(Green Delaware has heard rumors that the Home Owners Association may have changed it’s position, but our attempts to reach Mr. Clemens have not so far been successful.)

Others are opposed. 

Legislation has been introduced in the New Castle County Council to limit landfill height.  The current state representative for the area, Frank Cooke, is strongly opposed.  Mr. Cooke said his constituents in the area are often poor, are subjected to environmental injustice, already have many health problems, and want the dump expansion denied.  

Cooke described himself as “the voice of the voiceless” and “the hope for the hopeless.”

What does all this mean?  Try this:  Imagine a 190 foot waste dump receiving a permit next to a residential neighborhood in Brandywine Hundred, in Greenville, or in Hokessin.

  Public Hearing Wed. May 29th at 6 p.m.. at the Minquadale Fire Company, 129 E. Hazeldell Avenue, New Castle. 

Official hearing notice.

Green Delaware’s view is that the DNREC rarely denies even the most objectionable permits, and has failed to incorporate environmental justice considerations into permitting in a substantive way.  DNREC permitting officials are usually in close touch with applicants, and often have similar backgrounds.  They are usually remote from community and environmental advocates.  DNREC public hearings have declined in quality and are mainly regarded as giving residents an opportunity to vent.  Think about the fact that it’s considered OK for applicants to bribe needy communities, and to spend large amounts of money “lobbying” elected officials. 

This is very clearly a “JUST SAY NO!” situation.