Mountaire request OK’d for more sludge irrigation acreage

Mountaire Farms of Delaware. Delaware State News file photo

GEORGETOWN — Mountaire Farms of Delaware has received the green light from Sussex County Council to add another 350-plus acres for sludge and wastewater spray irrigation.

Just over three months after a public hearing drew heavy opposition, Sussex County Council by 5-0 vote on Tuesday approved Mountaire’s conditional use. Mountaire’s request was previously supported by the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission, which recommended approval with a series of conditions.

“I’m in favor of this application. It absolutely serves a need,” said county councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton III. “It’s a way of handling the waste. I think it deserves oversee, to make sure what they are doing is legally and environmentally safe. I believe there are safeguards in there … I hope.”

“I think this is an of example of a corporate neighbor doing absolutely the right thing,” said councilman John Rieley.

Douglas Hudson, Samuel Wilson Jr. and council president Michael Vincent also supported approval of the conditional use request. They cited planning and zoning’s recommendation with conditions.

In its conditional use request, the poultry company sought permission to allow sludge and wastewater spray irrigation on approximately 352 acres of AR-1 (agriculture/general residential district) zoned land located along Mount Joy Road, Townsend Road, Maryland Camp Road and William Street Road, not far from Mountaire’s processing facility on John J. Williams Highway.

At a Nov. 5 public hearing before county council, Tanya Rogers-Vickers, director of environmental compliance for Mountaire, said the 350 acres would be added to the approximate 900 acres of current spray irrigated property. This, she said, would provide “better flexibility in spray operations, allowing us to spread the same amount of flow over 350 additional acres. Mountaire has no plans to increase production.”

Under a DNREC permit, Mountaire can dispose of up to 2.6 million gallons of treated wastewater daily.

In rendering its decision for recommended approval by county council, the county’s planning and zoning commission at its Oct. 24 meeting noted that “the applicant currently spray-irrigates wastewater on other lands and seeks to spray irrigate wastewater on this property as well. The applicant has no intention to increase the amount of wastewater it spray-irrigates and intends to use this property to allow for better load and nutrient management.

“The applicant will also use the property for sludge application. The application of sludge and wastewater spray irrigation will be used to assist in the growing of crops.”

Addressing concerns raised by opposition, the commission noted the applicant will be subject to regular monitoring by DNREC and will have to comply with DNREC’s requirements. Monitoring requirements include monthly reports to DNREC and unannounced visits from DNREC to inspect the site.

Additionally, the planning and zoning commission found there is no indication that the use, if in compliance with DNREC regulations, will have any adverse impact upon the area or neighboring or adjacent properties.

“To the contrary, it will be consistent with the agricultural uses on nearby properties which utilize wastewater spray irrigation and sludge application,” the commission stated.

Use of this conditional use is subject to the following conditions:

• Application of sludge and wastewater spray irrigation shall be subject to DNREC and other state and federal regulatory approvals;
• Application of sludge and wastewater shall be limited to sludge and wastewater from Mountaire Farms;

• There shall not be any stockpiling of sludge materials or wastewater on site;

• Maximum number of sludge and wastewater applications on the property shall be subject to the approval of DNREC and other regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over this use;

• This conditional use shall be valid concurrent with DNREC’s permits for this use. If the DNREC permits shall be terminated or expire, this conditional use shall also terminate and expire;

• All stormwater management facilities shall be subject to the review and approval of the Sussex Conservation District. The Final Site Plan shall include the approval of the Sussex Conservation District for the design and location of the stormwater management areas;

• Prior to the submission of the Final Site Plan, the applicant must provide copies of all active permits from DNREC demonstrating that the applicant has received all necessary approvals and permits from DNREC to apply the sludge and wastewater spray irrigation on this property;

• Failure to abide by these conditions shall result in the termination of the conditional use approval;

• The applicant shall submit a Final Site Plan, which shall be subject to the review and approval of the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Opponents have repeatedly expressed concerns regarding well water contamination.

Those concerns of residents are the crux of several lawsuits representing hundreds of area residents over suspected groundwater contamination.