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

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