Kent mulls using farmland to spread treated waste


DOVER— A plan that would allow treated domestic sewage to be spread on farmland in Frederica is raising a stink with some residents.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Surface Water Discharges Section held a public meeting Thursday night regarding the future of Kent County’s purchase of a Frederica-area field to use for spreading waste.

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Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson talks to a few residents about the future of a Frederica-area field to use for spreading waste. (Arshon Howard)

The county purchased the old Vineyard Farm off Carpenters Bridge Road in 2013, paying $1.3 million from its Sewer Fund for the 148-acre property.

The county and state officials said the property will be used infrequently to spread biosolids, which are nutrient-rich organic materials that result from the treatment of domestic sewage.

The public hearing was held at Lake Forest East Elementary School as it allowed the public a chance to comment on the permit application.

William Moffett, whose land is next to the field, believes it’s a mistake to spread the land with biosolids.

“I think it’s a problem,” Mr. Moffett said. “I think you will see that it’s a problem down the road maybe not for us, but for our children and grandchildren.

“It’s about the toxins and damages to the environment and potential diseases that can happen,” he added.

“I don’t have an answer or a solution on how to correct it, but there will be a different way of doing this in the future.”

The Vineyard Farm, consists of approximately 150 acres of which approximately 120 acres are proposed for land application.

Currently the county has an agricultural utilization permit for agricultural utilization of biosolids, onto lands known as the West Farm, Kent County Sludge Farm, Nyle Calloway Farm, Blessing Farm, and the Goldinger Farm.

Prior to the utilization of biosolids under an agricultural utilization permit, biosolids are required to undergo a process to significantly reduce pathogens and must be analyzed for a list of specific parameters including nutrient content and metals, to ensure the biosolids meet state and federal regulatory requirements.

There are two types of biosolids, Class A and Class B. Both have been treated, but those in the Class B category contain “detectible” levels of pathogens, while Class A do not, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Class B biosolids have limits on use, such as buffer zones and crop restrictions, and anyone spreading them in Delaware must have a permit from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Residents in surrounding neighborhoods expressed their concerns as well.

They asked about cancer studies and how often the biolsolids would be spread over the Vineyard Farm.

Andrew Jakubowitch, director of Kent County’s Department of Public Works said in the last 20 years the biosolids have only been spread twice.

“The first time was in 2011 we had a major upgrade to our existing plant and had to shut things down for a while,” Mr. Jakubowitch said.

“As a result we had to produce Class B biosolids that we spread on the farm as adjacent to the waste water facility for about two weeks until it came back up.”

They had to spread the biosolids in 2012 as well.

“We were utilizing a new method of drying our biosolids using a solar dryer and as a result of using a new dryer we weren’t able to achieve Class A biosolids regulated by DNREC,” he said.

“We had to get rid of it and for about a week or two we had to produce Class B.”

Eric Buckson, Kent County Levy Court commissioner said both sides were heard, which will help with decision moving forward.

“I think the state and the county did a real nice job of explaining to the public what the uses and risks are,” Commissioner Buckson said.

“My expectations will be that this will be minimal uses if ever and if this would ever become a routine use we’re going to shut it down and figure out how it do it another way.”

DNREC-SWDS will take all of the comments into consideration before they make their decision.

It can be a few months before one is made, as once a decision is made it will be posted online and there will be legal notices made out as well.

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