Allen Harim is pursuing environmental and county permits as it continues with plans to open a poultry processing at the site of a former pickle plant.
“We're making sure there are no environmental issues going forward,” said Matthew Hamilton, senior manager of sales for Allen Harim Foods, LLC.
The final purchase of the plant is contingent on a series of environmental permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and a Sussex County special-use permit. DNREC permits needed include air quality and water discharge among others.
Hamilton said Allen Harim expects to finalize the purchase by the end of the year.
In April, Allen Harim announced its plan to convert the former Vlasic pickle plant on the Indian River into a 700-job chicken processing plant.
Hamilton answered questions during a presentation Sept. 6 to the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the Center for the Inland Bays in which he outlined the company's plan to treat and improve water quality, contain odor and explained the traffic impact.
“We're not an outsider trying to push something through … we all live here,” Hamilton said.
In spring 2013, Seoul, South Korea-based Harim bought Allen Family Foods, keeping the headquarters of Eastern Shore chicken production in Seaford. The company operates plants in Harbeson and Cordova, Md.
To date, Hamilton said, the Cordova plant, which lies in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, has not received any violations in its two years of operation under Allen Harim.
Still, residents and experts expressed doubts about the proposed plant.
Millsboro resident James Clausen, who lives in neighboring development Wharton's Bluff, questioned why Allen Harim wants to put a plant at the river site when they could develop elsewhere.
“Why would you put it there next to three neighborhoods?” he asked. “You're gaining but he people are going to lose property values.”
Hamilton said the biggest reason Allen Harim wants to put a plant there is because of the existing facility. Upgrades and renovations would improve operations of the former pickle plant, he said.
Bill Moyer, president of the Inland Bays Foundation, said it is illegal for a company to discharge into the Indian River because the waterway's total maximum discharge load is already too high.
However, Hamilton said, the final decision of whether to approve Allen Harim's water discharge plan would be made by DNREC during the permitting process. Hamilton said the plant would pull existing well water that has high nutrient levels of 8 to 10 parts per million and treat it, reducing the nitrate and phosphate levels to one or less parts per million.
A state-of-the-art air scrubber using European technology would clean the air of odors and dust, Hamilton said.
The plant would not contend with rendering, hatchery or feed smells because it is only a processing plant, Hamilton said. Live chickens will be driven in and turned into broilers or trays of breasts, thighs or other chicken parts.
John Austin, member of the Center for the Inland Bays Citizens Advisory Committee, voiced concern over adding another processing plant to an area already struggling with water impacts from the chicken industry.
“We're really suffering under the concentration of an industry,” he said.
Besides the DNREC permits, Allen Harim must receive county approval for the proposed plant sitting on property that was deemed a Brownfield site in July.
A special-use permit from the county is required because poultry processing is defined as a potentially hazardous use. The Sussex County Board of Adjustment received state and public comments on the proposed plant in August.
Allen Harim's application for a special-use permit is on the Board of Adjustment's meeting agenda for 7 p.m. Sept. 23 in county council chambers, Sussex County Administrative Office Building, Georgetown.
If all goes well, and Allen Harim purchases the property at the end of the year, Hamilton said, they hope to be operating by the first half of 2015.
“It's been a much longer process than we anticipated,” Hamilton said.