Tag Archives: composting

Big Stinkers (DiSabatino) appeal Peninsula Compost shutdown order

When DNREC issued a shutdown order for Peninsula Compost Group (otherwise known as Wilmington Organics Recycling Center, Peninsula Compost Company, etc.) on October 20th, our first question was “would they appeal?”  That question has been answered with the filing of an appeal to the Delaware “Environmental Appeals Board” on November 7, 2014

The lawyer filing the appeal is Robert W. Whetzel of Richards, Layton, Finger, 302.651.7634.  We have run into Whetzel many times representing the Delaware City Refinery and other bad polluters. Continue reading

Can we stop another big stink? Can we get the Coastal Zone Act enforced?

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Is there any end to it …?

(Note:  We get that this might seem trivial compared to the giant oil and gas facilities being shoved into Delaware.  More upcoming on those.  But if we can’t enforce our environmental laws on smaller projects, how can we expect to enforce them on big ones?)

No permit (yet) but the poultry waste plant already built.  Who are they kidding?  (US)

Skids greased for polluters but public participation curtailed

Readers will know that Peninsula Composting has been ordered to shut down.  The facility is supposed to be clearing out its existing materials.  Neither Peninsula nor DNREC have been returning phone calls, so we can’t tell you a lot more.

We’ve worked up a description of how the situation developed and what went wrong.  There’s is plenty of blame to spread around.  This grew to three thousand words, so we decided not to email it.  Read it here:

Update on the Big Stink from Peninsula Compost (“Wilmington Organics Recycling Center”)

Treating people worse than garbage in Delaware?

Continue reading

Update on the Big Stink from Peninsula Compost (“Wilmington Organics Recycing Center”)

Treating the people like garbage in Delaware?

Our previous comments on this matter may have had some effect, but we don’t know what the Markell administration intends to do, and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) secretary David Small did not return a call (We didn’t really expect him to, because we know him, but we tried.).

We’ve had some long conversations with people in the industry, and studied the transcript of the public hearing, and talked with people in various parts of Delaware’s environmental regulatory agency (DNREC).  We draw on our 20 years experience with environmental controversy in Delaware. Continue reading

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.

Recycling company wants to compost out-of-state food waste near Wilmington

Recycling company wants to compost out-of-state food waste near Wilmington
By JEFF MONTGOMERY

Posted Friday, June 8, 2007

Peninsula Compost Co. wants to use this site east of I-495 for composting food waste along with leaves and wood.

A recycling company has proposed composting 160,000 tons a year of food, leaves and wood near the Port of Wilmington, the latest sign, some environmentalists say, that the city is becoming a regional wastebasket.

Peninsula Compost Co. would recycle the castoffs from restaurants and fast-food chains from northern Delaware and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The amount of food waste proposed could exceed the total amount sent to all of Delaware’s landfills in 2002.

Nelson Widell, a principal in the project, said developers plan to cover the dozens of rotting piles of waste — each 50 yards long, 26 feet wide and 10 feet high — with a W.L. Gore & Associates fabric designed to control odors.

Alan Muller, who directs the environmental group Green Delaware, said while the project has lofty goals, it could burden neighborhoods that suffered through previous failed efforts to compost waste at the nearby Pigeon Point Landfill.

“Who’s going to be served by this, and why should more waste disposal facilities be approved for Wilmington … because other jurisdictions are smart enough to not want them in their backyard?” Muller said.

East Wilmington already has become a magnet for other types of waste. Other ventures include:

•A city government-endorsed arrangement that brought hundreds of thousands of tons of out-of-state power plant ash into Wilmington to be mixed with treated sewage sludge. VFL Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Utah-based Headwaters Inc., set a goal of marketing mixtures of ash, sludge and other industrial castoffs as a topsoil substitute. But instead of selling it on the commercial market, VFL has sent more than 1 million tons of the mixture to city-area landfills for landscaping or cover.

•A new business off Christina Avenue in south Wilmington that would collect hundreds of thousands of tons of local and out-of-state construction and demolition waste for shipment by barge to a recycling center in North Carolina.

•A new, large-scale commercial mulching center near the port, opened in advance of a ban on landfilling of northern Delaware yard wastes.

Charles H. Gifford III, president of Peninsula Composting, said his company’s venture is unrelated to others in Delaware.

Gifford said he hopes the project can win a Coastal Zone Act permit this year, allowing the startup to coincide with the landfill ban on yard wastes.

Peninsula’s plan calls for use of the filtering cover system developed by Gore to control odors, moisture and gas emissions that seep up from the piles. Dozens are in use around the world. The largest, in Everett, http://healthsavy.com/product/levitra/ Wash., is roughly the same size as the one proposed for Wilmington.

“We have been looking at the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware area for a while and noted that Delaware had taken a position — a correct position — against leaf and yard waste in their landfills,” Gifford said. “It seemed like the right attitude was evolving there, from a regulatory standpoint.”

Gifford acknowledged that Peninsula would, at least initially, collect food wastes from neighboring states.

A study for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority in 2002 estimated that the entire state generates about 79,000 tons of food waste yearly.

The waste authority already has tested the Gore composting system on a smaller scale with yard waste and poultry house waste at the Sussex County landfill. And the waste authority recently purchased the equipment for use with yard waste at Cherry Island Landfill in east Wilmington.

“I’m very pleased that somebody has decided to come in and do something — not only with yard waste, but food waste,” said Pasquale S. Canzano, the waste authority’s chief executive.

The Port of Wilmington alone sometimes sends large amounts of food waste to Cherry Island, Canzano said, including “trailer loads of bananas and whatever that go bad from time to time.”

Deborah Deubert, executive director of the Rose Hill Community Center just south of the site, said neighborhoods have had trouble with industrial activities in the past. State regulators repeatedly sanctioned and eventually shut down a composting operation at Pigeon Point after odor complaints were filed against the contractor.

“The memory is still fresh, and they have other odor and dust concerns,” involving local businesses and landfills, Deubert said. “I would hope that the powers that be are making an effort to get information out so that people can ask questions about it.”

Widell, a project principal, said the company is “reaching out to neighborhood groups and neighbors. … We’re going to be talking with the neighbors, to take the mystery out of it.”

The operation in Delaware would produce about 250,000 tons yearly of topsoil and compost.

In Wilmington’s Southbridge community, longtime resident Franklin Starkey was skeptical.

“Why does it have to be in south Wilmington,” said Starkey, who lives a few blocks northwest of the proposed composting site, not far from the redeveloping Christina River waterfront.

“I admire what they’re doing with putting new condos on the water and a new ShopRite. I don’t know about compost,” Starkey said. “We already have a problem with odors here, with the landfill and the other things they have out there now. You can’t keep your windows open.”

Misguided Delaware Solid Waste Authority Embarrasses State, Harms Communities, Doesn’t Recycle our Trash.

[Note:  originally published in the Delaware State News]

Alan Muller, Green Delaware
1998

Many readers already know that Delaware recycles very little residential waste (around 2-15 percent, depending on who’s counting. The “Recycle Delaware” drop off centers are mostly a feel-good program.). Many don’t know how the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) avoids recycling and even harasses people who advocate it. The story of the DSWA is one of arrogant disregard for public opinion, human health, and common sense. As you read this story, remember that the real problem lies with the Governor(s) who have appointed so many misguided and unqualified people to the Authority.

A DSWA Board of Directors Meeting

On March 2, 1998, a room full of people, many from New Jersey, attended a meeting of the Board of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA). They were worried about a DSWA scheme: to burn Delaware garbage in Pennsville, NJ, just across the river from the failed garbage incinerator near Pigeon Point (New Castle), DE (Connectiv [Delmarva Power] was also a party to this scheme.) Here is how the Board reacted:

They refused to hear from the public until AFTER voting on all the items on their agenda. Chair Richard Pryor, a former head of Catholic Charities, said comments should have been made at a meeting the week before in another county. The board then set a three minute limit to public comments. After objections, Pryor said the limit was aimed at a specific person, not the visitors from New Jersey. The board adjourned before seven o’clock, while people still had hands up asking to comment. Sharon Findlayson, Chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, tried to comment on behalf of the ninety thousand members of her organization. Findlayson has been to hundreds of public meetings and said she had never seen one run with such contempt for the public.

Board members denied any special interest in the NJ incinerator. Then, they admitted paying for nine staff and board members to attend a two day promotional meeting about it at a resort in Cape May. (I also attended.) They claimed to have a “fiduciary responsibility” to send garbage to the cheapest incinerator, although they say they won’t use cheaper out-of-state LANDFILLs for environmental reasons. They blamed Green Delaware and others for the expensive, polluting failures of their incineration and composting projects. For instance, Pryor admitted that operations at Pigeon Point had “stunk people out of their homes,” but blamed the community itself.

DSWA “Waste Forums”

On April 15, 1998, the DSWA held a “Waste Symposium,” co-sponsored by the University of Delaware and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). No members of the communities directly effected by DSWA facilities and decisions were invited, and the event was structured to prevent public participation–all questions were screened. (Green Delaware wrote to the sponsors before the meeting, asking that communities be included. All refused, saying the views of “those people” were “not relevant.”) The forum “moderator,” Professor Ron Mersky of Wiedner University, began by saying he didn’t believe in recycling and doesn’t do it himself. He later boasted of having chaired the committee responsible for siting a giant garbage incinerator in Chester City, PA, contributing to a public health disaster in that city. (The DSWA has sent hundreds of thousands of tons of trash to Chester without inquiring into the effects on the community, or even seeking an environmental audit of the facility.) At the meeting, University of Delaware police followed this writer around, demanding to search my bag and threatening that I could be “incarcerated” if I attempted to participate in the meeting. An out-of-state visitor commented  “In New Jersey, the public would have been allowed to speak.”

Another bogus “Recycling Forum,” with the same cast of characters, was held on April 21 of this year, with the same cast of characters. The repellent Professor Mersky gave a presentation suggesting that Delaware is doing TOO MUCH recycling and should landfill more bottles rather than recycle them. Another honored guest said “incinerators are great,” and don’t threaten peoples’ health. Jake Kreshtool, longtime clean air activist, was denied an opportunity to respond. The public was not allowed to speak. University of Delaware Police were on hand to ensure that no gagged citizen held up a sign or banner. The DNREC again ignored Green Delaware’s objections to DNREC’s sponsoring a meeting at which the public was silenced. “It’s about control” said Andrea Cramer of Shipley Associates, who organized the meeting for the DSWA. (Sam Shipley is a former head of the Delaware Democratic Party.) At this meeting Governor “Pollution” Carper signed an Executive Order setting up an “Citizens’ Work Group on Recycling.” Need it be said say that no one from Green Delaware was included?)

DSWA Censors “Public Comment”

On Nov. 19, 1998, the DSWA held a “workshop” to “take public comment” on revisions to its plans. I testified that no DSWA Board members represent communities impacted by DSWA facilities, and that some have conflicts of interest. Tom Houska, DSWA planning manager, said he would not allow this testimony and told the court reporter to stop recording. N.C. Vasuki, CEO of the DSWA, later defended Houska’s actions, claiming such testimony was “personal and abusive.”

Misinforming Delaware’s Kids

For many years DSWA has pumped out misleading information. Thousands of school children have been given the impression that the maximum feasible recycling is already being done in Delaware and that incinerators aren’t a health hazard. People are told that trash is “converted into electricity,” although a moment’s thought indicates that only nuclear reactions could begin to do this.

Delaware Can do Better

These aren’t just the antics of amusing cranks: the DSWA does real harm to peoples’ health, pocketbooks, and quality of life. In 1997 a large delegation from Chester PA, where New Castle County garbage was being burned, came to Wilmington to protest Delaware’s contribution to their health problems. (Children have high blood lead levels, all ages have many respiratory problems, and so on.) They stuffed Gov. Carper’s Wilmington office with green bags to show their appreciation for our contribution to their problems. After Salem County NJ banned the Pennsville incinerator (Delaware and New Jersey activists worked hard together on this) the DSWA began threatening to rebuild their dirty old polluter at Pigeon Point. Busy people then had to give time and energy to pass Senate Bill 98, banning incineration in Delaware’s Coastal Zone. It will never end with Vasuki at the helm..

The DSWA cries out for reform: Scandal and absurdity will prevail until people with better judgement manage Delaware’s garbage. The trash industry is “deregulating” following a Supreme Court decision that killed the DSWA’s monopoly on handling Delaware municipal waste. In this new situation, the one obvious remaining role for the DSWA is to organize and support curbside recycling programs throughout Delaware. This seems to be the one think that Mr. Pryor and Mr. Vasuki refuse to do. They should be replaced, and Delaware law should be changed to set mandatory, progressive goals for waste reduction and recycling, and to ban garbage incineration throughout the state. A recycling-oriented Solid Waste Authority could help Delaware build a sustainable future. Let your leaders know you want real recycling for a healthy future. (Green Delaware will offer more detailed proposals in a future article.)

Alan Muller is coordinator of Green Delaware, an organization concerned with environmental and public health issues in Delaware and nearby states.